USC basketball handed Washington State their sixth loss in a row while ending their own two-game losing streak with a 81-71 win at the Galen Center.
The lowdown: The Trojans needed to get back on track by taking advantage of the home court advantage, but the early goings were sloppy as Nikola Jovanovic followed up two early baskets by picking up two early fouls. Three turnovers by USC did not help, nor did contributions from WSU’s Ike Iroegbu.
Chimezie Metu’s introduction to the game gave the team a spark as he amped up the Galen Center crowd with two dunks, the second of which he created off a steal of his own. The Trojans were unable to take advantage of the surge, however, as Que Johnson quickly made up the deficit.
With both teams shooting close to 60% from the field, USC and WSU traded leads through the middle of the first half.
The close of the half swung the Trojans’ way with seven unanswered points capped by an alley-oop slam from Katin Reinhardt to Metu.
USC maintained their double-digit lead for much of the second half but the Cougars climbed back into it, cutting the lead to six as the Trojans went six minutes without a field goal and turned the ball over five times in that span.
Jordan McLaughlin sank a three with just over five minutes to play then dished it to Metu for a dunk to put the Trojans back in comfortable double-digit territory.
The takeaway: With Pac-12 play this season defined by home teams winning their battles, it was imperative that USC protect their undefeated record at the Galen Center this season. They’re now 12-0 at home for the first time since 1943.
The victory over the Cougars moved the Trojans to 5-3 in conference and ended their losing streak at two. With a tough match up against Washington coming up, righting the ship in the first leg of this home stand was key.
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Though McLaughlin continues to struggle after battling illness last week, he bounced back to make two of the biggest plays in the second half to protect USC’s shrinking lead.
Meanwhile, Reinhardt did well to pick up the slack with McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs’ scoring ability limited.
Still, Andy Enfield will be concerned about the Trojans first half defense, which seemed to carry over from questionable displays against Oregon and Oregon State.
Player of the game: Katin Reinhardt; 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists.
Stat of the game: Julian Jacobs did not take a shot from the field in the first half, but still had six points. He finished with eight.
Next on tap: On Saturday at noon at the Galen Center the Trojans will take on the Washington Huskies, who bested UCLA at Pauley Pavilion Thursday night.