It was a night of spectacular performances for the USC Trojans as they glided past UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in a 98-87 victory. Chimeize Metu cranked out 31 points on 11-of-16 shooting and Jordan McLaughlin dished out a PAC-12 best 19 assists.
A Statement Win
In his first career 30-point explosion, Metu looked great in the I’m-scoring-every-possession mode that he locked into. His 31-point game was partially a product of McLaughlin’s double-double. The offense lived through the star point guard, with his 10 point, 19 assist display powering the offense. Pace and spacing seemed to run through him on every play and his tampering of the offense made the Trojans scoring run like a well oiled machine. Every starter for the Trojans scored double digits, which paired nicely with the efficient shooting they posted.
The Trojans went up early and big, securing a 52-33 lead going into the half, finishing the game shooting 56 percent, 50 percent from range. Elijah Stewart regained his former starting role (Bennie Boatwright was sidelined with a bunion on his foot) leading to a 19 point showing for his second double-digit game in December.
Despite a 54-point second half from the Gauchos, the Trojans were unfazed by anything that was thrown at them, with the perfect match of perimeter shooting and inside attack to keep Santa Barbara off-balance for the entirety of the game. The Trojans never relinquished control of the game, with McLaughlin controlling the offense at an elite level, while the defense out rebounded Santa Barbara 40-25. Nick Rakocevic was a crucial inside presence with 16 points and 12 rebounds to give the Trojans another double-double starter. Even Jonah Mathews showed up with a nice 16 points. The Trojans starters shot 52 percent from 3-point range, giving them the best floor spread they have had all season.
Adding Bennie Boatwright into this mix should provide for a very good rotation moving forward for USC.
Three Digestible Nuggets
- Jordan Usher had his best game of the season coming off the bench (8, 3 ,3) for 18 minutes, shooting 3-for-4. With Stewart playing the role of the sixth man and Rakocevic giving the team a very good 20 plus minutes, the team showed the promise of a solid bench upon Boatwright’s return. Usher’s development could be key the progress from the bench.
- Stewart showed why he still can be a valuable player commanding bulk minutes. The trick will be balancing the units between Stewart, Boatwright and Rakocevic, all of whom deserve around 20 to 30 minutes. Finding that perfect balance will make all the difference.
- After this rout, it is clear that the offense needs to run heavily through the McLaughlin/Metu combination. The rhythm and flow of the offense was fluid when built through McLaughlin. Metu can be the primary scorer when given enough shots and keep him moving in the offense to get him open looks. Metu can also be the go-to scorer given the right system because of his ability to find a good shot, making him an efficient scorer paired with a phenomenal playmaker in McLaughlin.