LOS ANGELES – The turning point for Southern California on Saturday was quick and decisive, lasting about 30 seconds and impactful enough to make a difference for the rest of the evening.
Daniel Utomi scored a season-high 23 points and USC’s 70-51 victory over Washington State looked like a game plan well executed. It just took a little reminder from Trojans head coach Andy Enfield.
When Washington State jumped out to an 8-0 lead 1:27 into the game, aided by a pair of 3-pointers, Enfield gathered his team for a little chat.
“He was a little animated,” USC’s Isaiah Mobley said. “Honestly, he told us right before we went out (for the game), ‘I don’t want them to have a 10-point lead right away and have to call timeout.’ Luckily, it was eight.”
Mobley could joke about it afterward. Enfield wasn’t smiling in the team huddle during his early timeout.
“They weren’t going to beat us inside, and the only way they could beat us was from the 3-point line. Here we give up two 3s to (CJ) Elleby and (Jervae) Robinson and all they do is shoot 3s. So that was the message: ‘If you want to win this game you have to get a little more intense than what you’re playing right now.’ ”
After going 2 of 2 from distance to open the game, the Cougars went 2 of 26 from the 3-point line the rest of the way. The Cougars missed 21 consecutive 3-pointers until Tony Miller made one with 39 seconds remaining.
“They’re long (on defense) and they did a good job,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said. “It bothered us and it felt that way. But I felt that we took some quick (shots). We made some early, but we have to take some better ones.”
Ethan Anderson scored 12 points while Mobley had nine points and 11 rebounds as the Trojans (19-7, 8-5 Pac-12) earned a home sweep of the Washington schools after a victory over Washington on Thursday.
Elleby scored 22 points with 13 rebounds for the Cougars (14-12, 5-8), who lost for the third time in their past four games while losing both games in the Los Angeles area after they fell to UCLA in overtime on Thursday. It was Elleby’s 10th career double-double.
“He has a big heart and he wants to do well out there,” Smith said of Elleby. “He was pressing a little bit, but he gave us a chance. I think we got it to 10 and had a couple looks with a 3-pointer (that missed).”
Utomi reached the 20-point mark for the second time this season, both coming in the past four games. It was the lowest-scoring game for a USC opponent in Pac-12 play this season.
USC was playing without leading scorer and rebounder Onyeka Okongwu, who has missed the past two games because of a concussion that reportedly occurred Feb. 8 at Arizona State.
The Trojans were working their way through injuries on the court as well as Anderson returned after a knee contusion in Thursday’s game and Mobley stayed in the game after tweaking his right ankle just past the midway point of the first half.
WSU was without point guard Isaac Bonton after the junior exited the game against UCLA with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Noah Williams scored 10 points as Washington State fell to 0-6 in conference road games.
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