Nick Rakocevic and Jonah Mathews joined the Trojan 1,000 point club as they led USC basketball to victory over South Dakota State.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but USC basketball rode to victory over South Dakota State at the Galen Center on Tuesday night, 84-66, as Nick Rakocevic and Jonah Mathews reached major career milestones.
Rakocevic scored USC’s first seven points of the contest before Max Agbongpolo, who hit 3-of-4 three-pointers, helped the Trojans open up a lead as large as 16-points in the first half.
South Dakota State didn’t go away without a fight though. Douglas Wilson contributed two layups while the Jackrabbits finished the half on a six-point run. USC led just 38-31 at the break as a result.
When play resumed, Noah Friedel’s pair of triples pulled South Dakota State within just one point. Elijah Weaver’s timely three-pointer in response gave the Trojans some much needed breathing room.
Momentum shifted USC’s way as Onyeka Okongwu converted a three-point play at the line and Quinton Adlesh sank two three-pointers during an 11-0 run for the Trojans, who led 56-44.
The trouble is, a 12-3 run for the Jackrabbits followed, aided by two USC turnovers and five SDSU free throws. It was 59-56 as the clock ticked under 10 minutes to play.
With the Trojans shooting dried up from the floor, USC managed to restore control from the free throw line, where they went 7-of-10 in the ensuing five minutes. Strong defense prevented South Dakota State from closing the gap.
In crunch time, it was the veterans who closed out the game. Mathews dropped in two three-pointers and two free throws while Rakocevic 3-of-4 shooting from the line ensured USC’s lead was safe in the final minutes.
The Trojans prevailed 84-66, moving USC to 3-0.
On a night when Rakocevic and Mathews both joined USC’s 1,000 point club, the duo were the key figures of the outing.
Rakocevic led all scorers with 27 points while also snagging 16 rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
Mathews added 14 points, including three three-pointers.
Youth featured heavily in USC’s rotation and freshman star Onyeka Okongwu maintained his strong start to his Trojan career with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Elijah Weaver’s four assists led the Trojans, though his 1-of-6 shooting from distance left him with just seven points on the night.
USC was favored by 14 points and won by 18, so on paper it was mission accomplished. However, they committed 11 turnovers and jacked up 28 three-pointers on what was an inefficient evening.
It’s early in the campaign, but the Trojans have things to clean up.
On the plus side, USC’s defense generated 12 steals while Mathews was the only player to flirt with foul trouble.
Player of the game: Nick Rakocevic, who commanded the floor with 28 points and 16 rebounds.
Stat of the game: Rakocevic needed 20 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career. He scored 28.
Next on tap: USC will face their first road test with a trip to Nevada on Saturday, Nov. 16. The Wolfpack opened the year losing to Utah, but they bounced back with a win over LMU.