Julian Jacobs flirted with a triple-double to go along with a monster slam on a defender as he helped lead the USC basketball team to a 75-63 victory at UC Santa Barbara Thursday night. The Trojans snapped a two-game skid by winning the battle on the boards and finishing strong down the stretch.
After a 15-2 run early in the second half got the Trojans a 12-point lead, they went cold in the middle of the second half. USC went on a seven-minute stretch without a field goal, which allowed the Gauchos to claw their way back. Santa Barbara hit 10 of its 19 three-point attempts, including four from Gabe Vincent.
Vincent finished with a game-high 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 5:54 remaining that cut the score to 61-59. But after that bucket, the Trojans were able to pull away, ending the game on a 14-4 run to seal the win.
Elijah Stewart led USC with 15 points. Nikola Jovanovic only had two field goals, but was a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line to finish with 14 points. Jacobs had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Chimezie Metu had 10 points and two massive blocked shots.
Here's three takeaways from USC's victory on the road at UC Santa Barbara:
Slow Start, But Strong Finish
UC Santa Barbara opened the game with a 12-4 lead as USC struggled in a man-to-man defense.
"The way they run their man offense, we tried to switch early in the game and they got open for a couple of threes. They made them," USC head coach Andy Enfield said.
That prompted Enfield to call a timeout, bring in three substitutes and change up his defense to an extended 1-2-2 halfcourt trap.
"We went to our zone and got them out of what they wanted to do. We got a couple of deflections and steals in our traps."
The Trojans were able to create some havoc, forcing five turnovers over UCSB's next nine possessions and were able to get back in the game.
"Their point guard was kind of shaky," Elijah Stewart said. "We were able to get out, get steals and get transition points. That kind of helped us along with some transition threes and some defensive stops."
While they started slow, late in the game, the Trojans finished strong. Following an extended field goal drought, USC finished the game on a 14-4 run to lock up the victory. The run was keyed by a Julian Jacobs' 3-pointer from the wing.
USC shot 39 percent for the game and only 29 percent from distance, but ended the game getting points on eight of its last nine possessions, including knocking down all four of its free throws in the final minute.
J-Mac is Now J-Mask
For the third straight game, Jordan McLaughlin failed to reach double-digit scoring. He was 2-for-8 from the field and made just one shot (the other basket was a layup), finishing with five points. The longest extended scoring struggle McLaughlin has encountered can be traced to one apparatus -- a bulky face mask he is being forced to wear to protect a broken nose he suffered against Xavier last Friday.
"We had that mask FedEx’d into Orlando," USC head coach Andy Enfield said. "It doesn’t fit his face. They have to put the gauze and the padding and everything to try to make it fit. It’s out too far. It really affects his depth perception. It’s frustrating, but he’s a competitor and he wants to be out there. We need him out there, so hopefully we can figure this out quickly."
Enfield said they are considering doing a procedure on McLaughlin's nose and then customizing a mask to fit his face, similar to the ones NBA players such as LeBron James and Richard Hamilton have worn in the past. The customized mask would help ease the depth perception concerns because it would be tight to his face rather than it being an inch in front of his face as it currently is.
"I feel bad for him because he’s trying to be out there with poor depth perception and it’s not easy to play at this level like that, but he’s a competitor, he’s out there," Enfield said. "He wants to help the team any way he can. Jordan has just been terrific through this whole injury, but obviously we’d like him to compete at a level he’s comfortable at instead of struggling."
If the game had been televisted rather than just broadcasted online with a single camera at the top of the bleachers at halfcourt, Julian Jacobs would have made Sportscenter's Top 10 tonight. As he seems to do once a game, Jacobs had a huge dunk. This one came at the expense of Santa Barbara forward Sam Beeler.
Dribbling up the right side of the floor, Jacobs saw an opening and turned the corner on his man. When he saw an unprotected basket, he powered up and sprung off the court and took the ball up to the rim with two hands. Beeler came over and tried to help from the weakside. Instead, he just got posterized.
Jacobs dunked right on Beeler and even drew a foul to boot. The USC bench went wild with Chimezie Metu nearly drawing a technical foul after he jumped up and started throwing exaggerated fist pumps three steps onto the court. Some of the players already on the court just dropped their jaws.
"Honestly, if you could have seen my face, I really didn't even process the moment," Stewart said before mimicking the stunned look on his face. "I didn't even make a facial expression. I was just like 'Dang, that's going to be on ESPN.'"
Jacobs was the Trojans' unsung hero. As he often does, Jacobs filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
"He was all over the court," Enfield said. "He plays an all-around game. He’s very valuable, especially with Jordan McLaughlin struggling."
The Trojans return home to the Galen Center, where they are a perfect 5-0 this season to start a five-game home stand. USC opens the December holiday home schedule against Idaho (5-3). The Trojans have already beat the Vandals in football and they could do the same in basketball on Monday at 7 p.m. PST. Idaho began the season 4-1 before losing back-to-back games, but tt won its last game against CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday.