Wow! I am not sure anybody saw this coming...even the most biased of USC Basketball fans.
The Trojans played their best game of the season and beat Kansas 85-51. Yes, you read that correctly, the USC Trojans defeated the Kansas Jayhawks by 34 points (in basketball) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. USC scored the first points of the game with 18:24 left in the first half, and led for the duration of the game.
USC dominated on both ends of the Court, and imposed its will on a good Kansas team. Isaiah Mobley had a huge performance and keyed the Trojans first half run. The elder Mobley hit all four of his first half three point tries, and finished the half with 14 points. To put some of this into perspective, Mobley did not have more than a single three pointer in any game during the regular season. Only in the Pac-12 Tournament did we first see designed sets to free up Isaiah in space. If he can convert from deep the entire offense opens up, and it was beautiful to watch tonight.
Besides Isaiah Mobley, the Trojans had a very balanced first half, Evan Mobley and Ethan Anderson both had 7 points and Isaiah White and Tahj Eaddy each had 4. The Trojans went into the break up 19, 40-21. The Trojan defense was exceptional, and held Kansas to 25% shooting in the first half. Kansas' leading scorer, Ochai Agbaji did not score in the first half, and David McCormack was limited to 2 points. USC rotated with precision and was in the right place to contest each and every Jayhawk shot...it was beautiful to watch. USC outrebounded Kansas 25-15 in the first half and was able to convert in transition.
Several times this year, the Trojans allowed early leads to slip away with sloppy and undisciplined basketball, that did not happen tonight. Coach Enfield had the team ready to go in the second half, and they did not let up. Led by a red-hot Isaiah White, USC made 5 three pointers in the opening 7 minutes of the final period, and extended its lead to 23 points. White finished with 13 points, and provided tremendous energy all night. He has never been afraid to mix it up with bigger bodies inside, and his physicality clearly disrupted the Kansas guards. Tahj Eaddy was also involved in the 3-parade, and finished with 12 points of his own. USC finished 11-18 from deep and shot 57% from the field for the game.
In total, 5 Trojans ended in double figures:
Isaiah Mobley - 17 pts, 8 reb, 4 assists
Isaiah White - 13 pts
Tahj Eaddy - 12 pts, 4 reb, 4 assists
Evan Mobley - 10 pts, 13 reb, 5 assists, and 3 blocks
Chevez Gooodwin - 10 pts, 2 reb
Ethan Anderson finished with 9 and Max Agbonkpolo and Peterson both had 5.
Candidly, I am not sure if I have ever seen a better performance from a USC team. The season-long commitment to defense paid major dividends tonight, Kansas finished 18-62 from the field, a 29% clip. Only one Jayhawk player reached double figures, as USC simply outmatched Bill Self's bunch.
The coaches in the Pac-12 were outspoken throughout the course of the year regarding the perceived disrespect of the conference. No team was consistently ranked, and poor performance in previous tournaments was the cited as the primary factor. The Pac-12 is now 10-1 in the tournament (if you include UCLAs play in game) and has 4 teams in the sweet 16. The Trojans' win tonight served as a statement for not only this team but the conference as a whole, and it was glorious.
USC will face a familiar foe in Dana Altman's Oregon ducks on Sunday. Oregon torched #2 seeded Iowa for 95 points this morning, also hitting 11 threes. In the only meeting between the two teams this year, USC defeated Oregon 72-58. Both teams are different (read: better) now, and it will be an exciting game filled with top tier talent.
We will have a full preview as the game gets closer.
For now, enjoy the win Trojan fans!
Survive and Advance!