Onyeka Okongwu (21) defends Cody Ross (4) (Jerry Kelly/T.G.Sportstv1)

USC are 5-0 for the first time since the 2017 season when the Trojans got off to a 14-0. 6’9 Freshman Onyeka Okongwu powered to the Trojans to a 91-84 victory over the Pepperdine Waves with a career-high 33 point performance, scoring more than 20 points for the third time in five games. 

Okongwu lived at the free-throw line all night converting 17-of-21 at the line, which got him settled into his groove for the night. Avoiding foul trouble has been an issue for the Freshman early in the season, but he played more disciplined and showed growth against Pepperdine. 

“[Okongwu] does what he does well, he stays around the rim, he flashes when he has too, he seals and then he gets fouled. He goes to the foul line and makes his free throws, I thought he played a smart game,” said USC Head Coach Andy Enfield. “It’s hard to guard him, usually the only thing to do is foul him when he gets too deep in the paint.” 

The first half exemplified a dominating performance by the Trojans big men, especially in the paint. Okongwu scored 15 points in the first half, while his counterpart and PAC-12 player of the week Senior forward Nick Rakocevic netted 10 points. 

Kameron Edwards (20) scored 18 points for Pepperdine (Jerry Kelly/T.G.Sportstv1)

“[Rakocevic] has great hands and great feet and he’s also is a very good passer so he has the ability to make plays for his teammates like he did tonight, they were double teaming in the post he also caught the ball in the middle of the zone sometimes and made some good plays out of it so he’s a very skilled 6’11 big man,” said Enfield. 

The Trojans outscored the Waves 22-12 in the paint for the first half, but Junior guard Colbey Ross’ 16 point first half, and game-high 38 points kept the Waves within striking distance until the very end of the contest.