It appeared to be another troubling game for the Trojans like the outing they had against Texas A&M, posting only 29 points in the first half. Down 33-29 after the first half, the Trojans looked sluggish and uninterested. Even having Bennie Boatwright come off the bench for the first time in two games seemed to do little for the team, as he played tentative in the first half. They looked disjointed as a unit.
But they came back strong, lead by Elijah Stewart’s 20 points and five rebounds, hitting 3-of-7 from deep. Chimezie Metu returned with another great outing, knocking down 16 points and snagging 8 rebounds, while Jonah Mathews notched 13 points after missing the Princeton game. Even though Jordan McLaughlin had a down night with nine points and six assists, the Trojans made a huge comeback for victory.
After three minutes in the second half, the Trojans started a a 15-0 run that gave the Trojans a 51-38 lead, which they kept the rest of the way. Despite the lethargic start, the Trojans played strong off the glass, out rebounding the Zips 39-23, along with leading in offensive rebounds 10-5.
An injury to lookout for was Mathews leaving the game limping after falling awkwardly driving to the rim, grabbing his ankle when he hit the deck. De’Anthony Melton looks to be an extended absence for the Trojans this season with his legal case still looming and Boatwright is still recovering from his foot injury, which means an ankle injury to Mathews could be problematic.
Nevertheless, after an abysmal first half against an inferior opponent, the Trojans responded in the second half by playing up to their potential turning a halftime deficit into a blowout win.
Three Digestible Nuggets
- After one trip to the bench against Santa Clara, Stewart has scored 19, 20 and 20 in the past three games. He has gone 10-for-25 from 3-point range (40 percent) and has gathered 14 rebounds. He responded to the benching with his best string of games this season, scoring over 15 points in the last three games for the first time this season.
- Late in the game, after a 25-point lead had already been established and USC’s entire starting unit had long since left the floor, backup guard Shaqquan Aaron hit a nice triple and the starters erupted. Every single starter that was on the bench not only went nuts for the triple Aaron hit, they were going crazy for everything. Rebounds, putbacks, steals, they cheered for everything with gusto. Starters supporting the second unit with such zeal in a game that is effectively over is usually a sign that each player is putting the team first and understands that the team’s success is also their success.
- After some bad losses this season, bouncing back in a take-care-of-business game was important for the Trojans. Doing it in such dominant fashion via the 55-point half is even better. A dominant second half was especially important after playing Princeton hard in the second half before putting up a dud of an overtime period.