USC men’s basketball avenges Stanford in thriller

first_imgA horrific case of deja-vu gripped the USC men’s basketball team in its Wednesday night contest with Stanford at the Galen Center Wednesday night. When the Trojans played the Cardinal back on Jan. 7 in Palo Alto, USC’s demise was a 55-foot, 3-pointer from Stanford freshman guard Daejon Davis that swooshed through the rim as time in regulation expired. Wednesday night’s contest between the two teams was all-too-familiar for USC’s comfort. Senior guard Jordan McLaughlin has tallied 457 assists in his career as a Trojan, the second-most in USC history. Austin Paik | Daily TrojanDavis hit a pair of free throws with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to pull Stanford within a 66-64 deficit of the Trojans. And after senior guard Jordan McLaughlin missed a pair of free throws with seconds remaining, the stage was set again for Davis to break the Trojans’ hearts; Stanford trailed 67-64 with under 15 seconds remaining. Luckily for USC, history did not repeat itself and Davis missed the possible game-winning 3-pointer. Davis’ miss was followed by a dunk from USC senior guard Elijah Stewart as time expired and the Trojans came away with a thrilling 69-64 revenge-victory over the Cardinal at home. “Personally, when [Davis] shot the ball I didn’t want to look to see if he was going make it,” said USC sophomore guard Jonah Mathews, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “I just looked at our bench … I saw they started celebrating, and then I definitely knew he didn’t make it.”The win over Stanford (11-10, 5-3 in Pac-12) Wednesday was USC’s fifth consecutive conference victory. The Trojans’ current five-game winning streak is their longest of the season. And as of Wednesday night, USC (15-6, 7-2) moved into a tie for first-place in the Pac-12 conference standings with Arizona. The Wildcats (16-4, 6-1) will play Colorado on Thursday night in a contest that could determine the current outright leader in the Pac-12 standings. “Any time we go on a nice little winning streak we want to keep it going. Our confidence is through the roof right now,” said USC sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic. “We’re all focused. We all have the same goal.” In the first half against Stanford, USC’s offense hit 18-of-31 shots (58.1 percent) from the floor. The Trojans’ hot-shooting to open up the game gave them a 41-26 lead at the half. A dunk from Rakocevic to open up the second-half gave the Trojans their largest lead of the night, putting USC ahead 43-26 with 19:29 remaining in regulation. But USC’s 17-point lead would go on to evaporate in the later stages of the game. A 12-for-34 shooting performance (35.3 percent) in the second half reflected the Trojans’ offensive struggles late against Stanford. The Cardinal responded to USC’s sluggish second half by shooting 12-for-22 (54.5 percent) from the field in the final period of play. Stanford’s comeback was built on an effort that saw them shoot 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half. USC shot 4-for-8 from the charity stripe for the entire game. “It wasn’t [Stanford’s] defense. Team’s just go through those stretches (of struggling to score) … We just had to play through it and come away with the win,” said Mathews. The Trojans were without junior forward Bennie Boatwright (averaging 15.1 PPG this season) against Stanford, as he is dealing with what is reported to be a plantar wart that has caused him foot soreness. Starting in Boatwright’s place was Rakocevic, who finished Wednesday with nine points and eight rebounds, on 4-of-8 shooting from the field.“[Rakocevic’s] a good player for us defensively. He brings it for us, and he played well tonight,” said USC head coach Andy Enfield. Mathews hit a game-high 4-of-6 3-pointers against the Cardinal. The final 3-point field goal of the night for Mathews was a crucial one, as it helped USC reclaim a double-digit lead with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, 64-54. “Our league is extremely deep and tough. We don’t ever take a win for granted,” Enfield said. “We have to keep getting better … focusing just on the task at hand, which is our next game.” Mathews was one of three Trojans to score in double-figures on Wednesday. Junior forward Chimezie Metu recorded a double-double with his 12-point (5-of-11 FG), 10-rebound effort.  Senior guard Elijah Stewart shot 5-of-10 from the field and finished with 10 points. In what was a rough shooting outing for McLaughlin (3-for-11 FG), the senior captain recorded a game-high nine assists. McLaughlin entered Wednesday’s contest leading the conference in assists (averaging 7.5 APG). Metu was at the center of what was an impressive offensive-effort for USC down low. The Trojans outscored Stanford in the paint, 48-28. USC will look to continue its strong momentum in conference play this weekend. The Trojans will be aim to extend their current Pac-12 winning-streak to six games when they host Cal at the Galen Center this Sunday.last_img