By Manny Nunez
As the USC Trojans basketball program has grown, early or long losing streaks are unheard of. The Trojans lost three in a row to three quality teams in Texas A&M, SMU, and Oklahoma before halting that slide Thursday night with an 82-59 win over Santa Clara.
Bennie Boatwright led USC with 21 points and 11 boards as Chimezi Metu came up strong with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists.
“I’m proud of our big guys for getting in their stances and guarding the 3-point line,” noted coach Andy Enfield in the postgame, “We saw more flashes from guys more like their normal selves than in the past. Boatwright played a good all-around game. Jonah was very effective. Chimezie was dominant, but we have work to do still.”
Nick Rakocevic had a double-double as well with 16 points and 10 rebounds on 6-pf-9 shooting in 18 minutes. He was once again beseiged with foul trouble as Enfield noted that those foul problems are a point of emphasis.
“It was fun to play with two other big guys,” said Rakocevic of starting along side Metu and Boatwright, “They’re easy to play with. We feed off of each other’s energy. “I’m working on this (foul trouble). If I can stay in games, I can do good things.”
Shot selection had become a major problem during that losing streak, where in each of their three losses USC failed to top 40 percent from three point range. This is in due part to senior guards Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, who average double figures, struggling to score in that slide. Neither hit double figures Thursday although McLaughlin dished 10 assists and ran the game from the point well in his 33 minutes.
Going forward, getting DeAnthony Melton back will be a major key in lots of ways. Melton is amidst the ongoing FBI investigation that began before the season started is still an issue as he is a glue-guy that does a myriad of things inside of a game that complement the other players’ skills.
The 6-4, 200-lb. sophomore from North Hollywood’s Crespi High School has voiced his frustration tweeting, “I just wanna hoop man.” The Trojans do miss him as his intangibles such as leadership are important to the team
Just wanna hoop man 😓
— DeanthonyMelton (@DeAnthonyMelton) December 9, 2017
With conference play just two weeks away, the Trojans were picked to be one of the teams to contend as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12. In the mean time, they have two more home games against UC Santa Barbara and Princeton before heading to Hawaii for the Diamond Head classic where they have a chance at seeing Davidson or Miami.