No. 10 USC looks to continue its best start in five years on Wednesday, hosting UC Irvine in Los Angeles.
The Trojans (10-0) overcame an uncharacteristically porous defensive first half on Sunday to hold off Long Beach State 73-62. USC surrendered 51.7 percent shooting from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.
In the second half, USC held Long Beach State to 8-of-31 shooting from the floor and 1-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We made our point at halftime and moved on,” Trojans head coach Andy Enfield said. “We came out with passion and defense and rebounding. You can’t let your offense affect your defense. You have to give a consistent defensive effort.”
Isaiah Mobley did his part both on the defensive end and the boards, blocking two shots and grabbing 12 rebounds. Sunday was Mobley’s second double-double in as many games and fourth in the last five games.
Mobley also scored 21 points for the third time in four games. His 21-point effort in a win over Utah on Dec. 1 marked a career-high, which he broke six days later with 23 points against Eastern Kentucky.
Mobley also set a career-high with five 3-pointers against Eastern Kentucky, breaking the previous high of four he set in last season’s NCAA Tournament win over Kansas.
“Mobley is a terrific player,” Enfield said. “This year, he is stronger, a better shooter, has a high basketball IQ and is a terrific rebounder. He’s playing at a high level.”
At 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, Mobley is setting the pace for the Trojans. He also helped pick up the slack with Boogie Ellis, USC’s leading scorer through the first eight games, going a combined 2-of-18 from the floor in the last two games.
Drew Peterson added offensive punch from the perimeter with 15 points in his fifth consecutive double-figure-point scoring game.
UC Irvine (5-2) comes in off a 63-55 loss Saturday at Fresno State, which ended a five-game winning streak.
“We weren’t able to make the defensive stops in this game that would have given us a chance,” Anteaters coach Russell Turner said. “I don’t think we played as well as we can offensively, if we are going to beat teams like Fresno State.”
The Anteaters rank among the nation’s best defenses with a 2-point field-goal yield of 41.6 percent and opponent 3-point average of 26.3 percent.
However, they rank No. 351 shooting just 39.9 percent from inside the arc. The Anteaters balance their inconsistent scoring from 2-point range with a 39.7 percent average from behind the 3-point line.
UC Irvine’s top four scorers — Collin Welp, JC Butler, Dawson Baker and Justin Hohn — all average 38.5 percent or better shooting from outside. Baker missed the Anteaters’ loss at Fresno State.
Butler scored 14 points for a second consecutive game on Saturday, going 4-of-6 from the floor including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Turner called it “his best game as an Anteater.”
–Field Level Media
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