USC hangs on to beat New Mexico for 3-0 start

first_imgThe USC men’s basketball team weathered a late second half push by the New Mexico Lobos to hang on for a 90-82 win at the Galen Center Saturday night.The Lobos trimmed a 20-point second-half deficit to as little as five with a minute and a half remaining. But the Trojans forced six consecutive misses by New Mexico and took an 87-79 lead with under a minute to play. Up six points in the dying seconds, USC’s Katin Reinhardt blocked a three-point attempt by Elijah Brown to seal the victory.“The ball was sticking,” junior guard Julian Jacobs said on the second-half letdown. “We didn’t have much ball movement. We weren’t rebounding too well. We were just missing shots. We weren’t making the extra passes we did in the first half. We weren’t putting pressure on the defense.”Four players scored in the double digits for the Trojans, with Jordan McLaughlin’s 19 points leading the way. Elijah Stewart had 18 points, Bennie Boatwright had 15 and Jacobs added 14.Up 17 points at halftime, the Trojans didn’t let up to start the second half. A 6-2 run out of the gate put them up by 19. USC went up by 20 at 66-46 midway through the half after an impressive block by Chimezie Metu resulted in an open three for Reinhardt on the other end.But an 11-0 run by New Mexico cut the lead to 74-64 and helped make the final score a little more respectable for the opposing team.The Trojans have now started the season 3-0, the first time they’ve done so since the 2000-2001 season, but head coach Andy Enfield has thought little of it.“The teams we’re playing are very good,” he said. “We need to continue to get better. It’s a nice statistic. I’m happy to be 3-0. We have a lot of things to work on.”The game started with the teams going back and forth. Boatwright hit two threes, the latter of which came in transition to give the Trojans a 10-8 lead.The Trojans then went on a 13-2 midway through the first half. It was ignited by a pair of finishes inside by Metu — a putback dunk and a layup plus the foul. A fancy dribbling display and finish by McLaughlin and a jumper by Nikola Jovanovic put USC ahead 23-14 with 8:17 to play in the first half.Metu, the tall, imposing freshman, had eight points, five rebounds and five blocks in 20 minutes.“His shot-blocking ability is as good as I’ve seen, especially for a freshman,” Enfield said. “He had great timing, he was explosive. That’s what we were missing last year.”In turn, Metu feels “very” comfortable in his short time thus far at USC.“Ever since I got here, everybody’s been helpful — all the players and coaching staff,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons I came here. I felt like this was a great environment for me to grow as a player and a person.”USC extended its lead to 17 at halftime with help from the three-point line. Stewart was a perfect 4-of-4 and the team shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first half. His fourth three-pointer gave the Trojans a 42-26 lead with under four minutes remaining.Stewart was also fouled at the end of the first half shooting a three, and his free throws sent USC to halftime with a 48-31 advantage.The Trojans were able to push the ball in transition, recording 18 fast break points to just five for New Mexico. Enfield noted it was a product of strong defensive play.“We’re shot blocking, stealing the ball and playing good defense, and that leads to transition baskets,” he said. “You can’t be a good transition offensive team without being a good defensive team.”USC shot 50.9 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range in an efficient offensive night. Enfield pointed to McLaughlin’s 19 points, which came on just seven shots.“That’s hard to do,” the coach said. “That’s terrific offensive efficiency. Our whole team is doing that now and that’s why we’re putting up a lot of points.”The Trojans are averaging 91 points per game three games into the season. They wrap up a four-game homestand to start the year against Cal State University, Northridge on Monday night, and then will head to Orlando to play in the AdvoCare Invitational during Thanksgiving weekend.last_img

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