Jan.12, 2013 was the last time the USC Trojans were able to defeat the Utah Utes, a team that has been to the NCAA tournament two straight years. USC played with an extra edge from the jump in front of a home crowd of 4,822 people at the Galen Center in Los Angeles Sunday night.
Hungry for a win, the Trojans (13-6, 4-2 Pac-12) used a season-high 14 three-pointers and extra motivation from trash talk, to rout the Utes (10-7, 2-4 Pac-12) 84-67, in a lopsided game that featured chippy play throughout it.
Sophomore guard Jonah Mathews ignited the Trojans with a team-high 17 points off the bench and converted on back-to-back three-pointers with 9:32 left in the first half, already leading 32-11.
“We made a statement to Utah because they were talking trash to us,” Mathews said. “Before, during, after… the whole game. We tried to keep our composure and let the scoreboard talk for us as it did.”
The scoreboard definitely did the talking as the Trojans led 46-22 at the half, thanks to making nine three-pointers on 60 percent shooting, as well as forcing Utah into 11 turnovers through 20 minutes of play.
USC coach Andy Enfield was pleased with his team’s performance, as the Trojans have now won their last two games over Colorado and Utah, by a combined margin of 29 points.
“It was a good win for us against a very good Utah team, to force the turnovers like we did and score 84 points, I was proud of our players.”
USC has struggled to fully have their entire roster healthy at times, but they are slowly starting to build momentum with hard fought wins.
“I think we now have our full roster that we’re gonna have for the season. It was very challenging in the out of conference and even in our last few games, where we had not only De’Anthony Melton out… But Derryck Thornton to separate his shoulder and Jonah Mathews and Bennie Boatwright [to] be out a few games,” said Enfield.
Just last Thursday, the school announced that sophomore Melton would be held out for the rest of the season, due to being linked to the college basketball bribery probe.
“They all feel for him deeply,” said Enfield about his team’s feelings towards Melton.
“He’s a tremendous teammate, he’s one of the hardest working young men you’ll ever see.”
Mathews and junior guard Shaqquan Aaron talked about the emotions with Melton, but added he is still in high spirits.
“I mean to be honest you would never know that anything happen to him, he comes in everyday with the same attitude, always smiling per usual. So if you were to see him on the street and not know who he was and know anything about it, you would think that he’s cool, everything’s fine,” said Mathews.
“I just tell him to hang in there, I’ve been through the situation where I wasn’t able to play,” added Aaron who finished the game with 9 points and 2 assists. “Just hang in there, keep working, keep working and when you get back on the court, use that anger as fuel to dominate.”
The Trojans had great balance that sought four players reach double-digits and three players just under with the nine-point mark.
Junior forward Boatwright scored only two points in the first half, but finished with 13 total, after a strong start in the opening minutes of the second half.
Guards Elijah Stewart and Jordan Usher both chipped in with nine points in 19 and 16 minutes respectively, while senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin added 14 points with 7 assists.
With that being said, the Utes did actually outscore the Trojans 45-38 in the second half, still not enough to truly threaten the Trojans, but still was worth mentioning.
Utah guard Justin Bibbins led his team with 19 points, all in the second half, where he hit five of the Utes’ 10 three-pointers.
The Trojans held the Utes to making just eight field goals, compared to the second half as they made 15 on 62.5 percent shooting and went 7 of 11 on three-pointers.
With the game already out of hand, USC junior forward Chimezie Metu pushed the Trojans lead to 71-48, with 8:32 remaining after he flushed home a powerful dunk in the paint.
On the next possession for USC, Metu converted on a jump shot giving him 11 points on the night, but was given a technical foul right after, while he proceeded to clap and celebrate in front of a Utah player.
“He’s like that right now because of the whole De’Anthony thing,” Shaqquan Aaron said. “They’re pretty close and he’s pretty upset.”
The Trojans will now prepare for a road trip against the Oregon schools, first playing the
(12-6 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) Ducks in Eugene, Thursday night at 6:00 p.m., before facing the
(10-7 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) Oregon State Beavers on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.