USC basketball kept their season perfect after three games by holding off the New Mexico Lobos for a 90-82 victory at the Galen Center Saturday night.
The lowdown: The Trojans went on a 11-0 run midway through the first half to open up a nine-point lead. However, excellent offensive rebounding from the Lobos helped them stay in the contest for the most part. USC inched towards more and more control as the half progressed until they entered the break ahead 48-31.
In the second half, the Trojans started strong, opening up their lead to more than 20 points in the opening two minutes with a 6-2 run. That lead would remain steadily around that margin through most of the first half of the second period.
A 7-0 run by New Mexico around the halfway point of the half threatened to put USC under pressure but the Trojans responded until another Lobo run of 11-unanswered points cut the lead to ten points with five minutes remaining. Bennie Boatwright’s three gave USC some breathing room but New Mexico continued to challenge as the clock clicked under two minutes when they cut the lead to five.
With the Lobos forced to play the foul game with just over a minute remaining, Jordan McLaughlin hit two from the charity stripe, Katin Reinhart blocked a shot and USC held on to take the victory despite two late threes from the visitors.
The takeaway: It looked like an easy third victory for the Trojans but like Monmouth on Tuesday, New Mexico refused to go away and USC failed to put them away. To their credit, the men of Troy kept their cool and secured the win in the end.
Breaking the 90-point mark a game after hitting more than 100 points is a definite sign of progress. As Max Meyer pointed out, the Trojans scored 90 points just once last season — in a triple overtime loss.
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McLaughlin was the center piece, while Elijah Stewart continued his strong start to the season with 18 pints and seven rebounds despite going out briefly with an injury.
It was Boatwright’s contributions which add even more to the optimism around this Trojan team. The freshman had 15 points and nine rebounds while hitting 4-of-7 from distance. Not to be forgotten, Chimezie Metu was a force for USC with blocks on the defensive end and a series of emphatic dunks.
Player of the game: Jordan McLaughlin; 5-7, 19 points, six assists, two rebounds
Stat of the game: For the first time since 2000-01, USC basketball has begun the season 3-0.
Next on tap: The Trojans will look to improve to 4-0 against the CSUN Matadors on Monday at 6:00 p.m.