Mon, 08 Mar 2021

USC to put surge to the test vs. Washington State

Field Level Media
16 Jan 2021, 13:19 GMT+10

Pac-12 Conference opponents coming off two polar-opposite results meet Saturday in Los Angeles, as a surging Southern California plays host to Washington State.

The Trojans (10-2, 4-1) faced little resistance on Thursday in their 95-68 rout of Washington. USC built a double-digit-point lead lessthan six minutes in and cruised to victory, with five players scoring in double figures.

"It was a good team effort," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "It was nice to make some shots. Our team played well on both ends."

USC was 57.1 percent on 2-point shots, then clamped down defensively to hold Washington to just 37.9 percent shooting overall on the night.

The Trojans' defensive dominance in the blowout continued a season-long trend and a particularly strong stretch over their current five-game winning streak. USC was ranked No. 11 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency through Thursday's games, according to metrics by basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy. The Trojans have held 4-of-5 opponents in the run below 70 points.

One big reason for USC's defensive prowess is the shot-blocking of 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley. He swatted two shots Thursday and has averaged 3.2 blocks per game.

At 16.3 points per game, he also is USC's leading scorer and one of four Trojans in double-figures. Tahj Eaddy is next-highest at 12.3 per game, Drew Peterson adds 10.7 points per game, and Isaiah Mobley is up to 10.4 per game after his career-high 18 against Washington.

Washington State (9-3, 2-3) opened the season 8-0, but has dropped three of its last four games, including a 91-61 rout Thursday afternoon at UCLA. The Bruins' 91 points were the most the Cougars have allowed on the season.

"Hopefully, we learned a lesson," Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. "(UCLA is) a good team, and we knew that coming in, but we really struggled to take anything away from them.

"I'd like to think we're better than that. We need to play with more effort, more energy to compete with a team like that on the road."

Isaac Bonton did all he could to keep Washington State in the game, scoring 23 points. He has at least 22 points in three of his last four games.

Despite Thursday's loss, the Cougars still rank among the nation's best defensively. They were No. 52 in adjusted defensive efficiency before Thursday's games and ranked top 10 in the country for both opponent 3-point percentage (27.5) and 2-point percentage (42.2).

Defensive pace has largely dictated Washington State's success in 2020-21. In wins, the Cougars are holding opponents to 57.9 points per game, but they are allowing 84 points on average in their three losses.

--Field Level Media

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