Trojans triumph over Arizona at Galen Center

first_imgThe Trojans were fortunate not to have to face Green, who racked up 18 points and four rebounds when the teams met earlier this season, as Arizona couldn’t seem to accommodate his absence.  “It’s do or die, I don’t have another year, I don’t have any more excuses — it’s do or die,” Mathews said after the game. “Every rebound matters, every loose ball matters, every shot matters.”  “He’s just such a tough young man,” Enfield said of Anderson. “He was a huge part of our win.”  The Wildcats were without senior guard Max Hazzard and the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder in freshman guard Josh Green. Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu led the way once again for the Trojans, racking up a team-high 10 rebounds and three blocks to go with 11 points on the evening. Thursday’s performance was Okongwu’s tenth double-double of the season. USC picked up a crucial 57-48 win over Arizona Thursday night at Galen Center, providing a crucial boost to the Trojans’ prospects of earning a first- round bye at the Pac-12 Tournament and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.  Mathews had another solid night, leading the team with 14 points while also grabbing five rebounds and setting the tone for the team for much of the game. “We just tried to challenge everything,” Enfield said. “We just executed defensively as best as we could and challenged, [we tried] to make it tough for everything they got.”  The Trojans were led by a balanced scoring attack. Six different players chipped in at least 7 points en route to one of USC’s biggest wins of the season.  Mathews, along with senior forward Nick Rakocevic, has been sick the past few days but provided a much-needed outing for the Trojans when the team needed it. USC also contained Arizona’s leading scorers— freshman forward Zeke Nnaji and freshman guard Nico Mannion — who came into Thursday’s matchup averaging 16.3 and 13.7 points per game, respectively.  Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu celebrates with his team after banking a shot from USC’s own free-throw line at the halftime buzzer. Okongwu finished with another double-double and added three blocks in the win. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Both teams had frustrating patches in the first 20 minutes, with the Trojans and Wildcats looking out of sync on the offensive end for the majority of the first half.  USC’s tepid first half was capped off in exciting fashion when Okongwu nailed his first collegiate 3-pointer with a heave beyond halfcourt at the buzzer to send the Trojans into the break with a 26-21 lead. center_img Anderson finished the night leading the team with four steals.  The second half was testing at times for the Trojans, as Mannion and company eventually made a run to cut USC’s lead from 11 to just 5 midway through the second half. A slow start for Enfield’s group saw the team go down 9-2 early, but the deficit was quickly remedied after a pair of tough plays by freshman guard Ethan Anderson gave the Trojans life: A quick layup followed by a steal on the ensuing inbound pass sparked a 9-0 run to give USC a slight 11-9 lead midway through the first half.  Freshman guard Ethan Anderson scored 7 points Thursday night to go along with four of the team’s 10 steals. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Senior guard Jonah Mathews said the effort was an example of the team’s high potential on defense. Arizona’s 48 points was its lowest mark of the season, an impressive feat for USC head coach Andy Enfield and his defense despite a roster with multiple players battling recent illnesses. “We were just locked in defensively, and we’ve proven to be pretty good defensively when we want,” Mathews said. “We just had to take it to another level.” The duo was held to just 5 points combined in the first half, shooting a combined 2-for-11 from the field. As a team, the Wildcats shot just 25.8% from the field in the first half and didn’t fare much better in the second.  Mannion and Nnaji combined for 21 points in the final 20 minutes, but their second- half push ultimately came up short as Okongwu and the Trojans pulled away in the late stages of the game.  Arizona finished the contest shooting an abysmal 28.1% from the field, including a disappointing 3-of-26 from the 3-point line for a clip of just 11.5%.  “They focused as best as they could, and I thought they came out tonight with great energy and very much attention to detail defensively,” Enfield said.  USC will look to follow up its win by continuing to make its March Madness case against Arizona State Saturday. Tipoff is 5 p.m. at Galen Center.last_img

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