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Juniors lead the way for USC hoops in 101-82 win over Cal Poly

Takeaways from the USC Trojans' second 100-point performance of the season, a 101-82 win over Cal Poly.

USC improved to 9-2 on the season, improving their perfect home record to 7-0 with a 101-82 win over Cal Poly. Making his second straight start, Katin Reinhardt scored 22 points in the first half en route to 29 points -- the Trojans' best single-game performance this season.

But it wasn't just the Reinhardt show. For the first time since 2004, six USC players finished in double figures. Chimezie Metu scored a career-best 16 points. Julian Jacobs also set a career high, dishing out 13 assists -- the most since Daniel Hackett had 13 against Oklahoma in 2009 and just two off the school record. He finished with a double-double adding 10 points. 

Nikola Jovanovic quietly scored 13 points and collected seven rebounds while Bennie Boatwright and Darion Clark both had 10 points. Clark knocked down three jumpers along the way to notch his season high in points. The Trojans went on a 15-5 run -- 13 points coming from Reinhardt -- early in the first half to open up a double-digit lead.

The Mustangs (5-5) did trim the lead to five points on the first basket of the second half, but Reinhardt and USC went on another run that pushed the game out of reach. Reinhardt scored seven points during a 10-2 run that put the Trojans up by 16 points and they never looked back. 

David Nwaba led Cal Poly with 15 points while leading scorer Joel Awich was just 2-for-10 from the floor and managed just five points. USC shot a season-high 56.3 percent from the field, including tying their season high 52.2 percent on three-pointers.

Here's three takeaways from USC's pair of victories at the Galen Center on Sunday:

Junior Maturation

This is what is is supposed to look like.

Three years ago when Julian Jacobs made the decision to honor his commitment to USC and play for Andy Enfield, this is how things were supposed to look.

"Obviously, we went through hell for the first two years. It's paying off now," Jacobs said. "Him and his staff have done a really good job of recruiting and putting the right pieces together, but I would say so. Today was the first time we embodied 'Dunk City' from start to finish."

While Enfield needed to recruit the right type of athletes for the system he prefers, the Trojans still wouldn't be 9-2 this season if not for the maturation of the junior class, particularly Jacobs and Katin Reinhardt.

Two years ago, Jacobs was a freshman and Reinhardt was sitting out the season on the Trojans' bench per transfer rules. Neither was patient. Neither played a controlled game. It bled into last season as well. With a team full of freshmen and sophomores, the mistakes and the losses piled up.

The Trojans didn't have the veteran leadership to help guide Jacobs and Reinhardt. Jacobs left his feet too often and relied on his athleticism rather than his intelligence. Reinhardt let his shooting affect his entire game. His emotions carried his game. Both struggled with decision making. They were on extremes of the pass versus shoot pendulum. Jacobs got stuck in the air looking to pass while Reinhardt never found a good time to pass unless he could add some flair.

But a year later, the Trojans are winning and both are playing key roles. 

Enfield said both are developing and maturing. For Reinhardt, that began with shot selection. 

"He's a more efficient player this year," Enfield said of the team's new leading scorer. "He’s taking good shots. He’s moving the ball. That’s the maturation of a basketball player. He’s buying into the team concept."

"His shooting percentage is higher and he's not taking as many contested shots. He has worked hard on his game and his decision making. He's a much better player this year."

"You grow up," Reinhardt said. "You realize you take what the defense gives you. If it's your night, it's your night. If it's not, it's not. The end result it to win. Now it's all about winning. I've been to the tournament once and I want to get back. Everybody wants to get back."

Jacobs maturation has started with him being able to slow down. While USC wants to run and gun, the Trojans don't always have to be running and gunning, which was the only speed Jacobs knew how to play the last two years. 

"If you remember watching him the last two years, he doesn't look like he does now," Enfield said. "He's more under control. He sees the floor. He's not leaving his feet and just flipping balls everywhere. He's being a leader and he's slowing down when he needs to. He's learning how to be a lead guard."


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USC freshman Chimezie Metu scored a career-high 16 points Thursday night, making six of his nine field goal attempts. He became the seventh different Trojan to score at least 16 points in a game this season. While he airballed a free throw and a jumper, Metu showed confidence in his shot, knocking down a couple of jumpers to go along with four dunks -- two that should be on your local highlight reel. He also grabbed five rebounds. 

"He is a typical freshman. He's talented," Enfield said of Metu. "He's learning the college game. He's learning a lot of things. It's overwhelming at times. But you see his skillset starting to develop. I'm proud of him and he's got to just keep getting better."

Metu continues to improve game by game and has made big strides offensively already. He's learning how to use his lower half on the offensive end rather than just relying solely on his freak athleticism for a 6-foot-11 forward.

The Juju Bandit

After being out with Achilles tendinits last game, Julian Jacobs was back in full effect. And he did it with a new look. Jacobs shaved his head and came out for warmups wearing a long white cloth bandanna similar to the ones worn by some women's basketball players. Jacobs was separated from the bandit bandanna before the game, but it wasn't the Karate Kid taking it back. The referees actually wouldn't allow him to wear it and said he would have to wear a normal elastic headband or nothing at all.

They may have taken the bandanna away, but they couldn't slow Jacobs down. Like Robin Hood, he provided for those around him, dishing out his career-best 13 assists and showed what the USC offense is capable of with him at the helm. After the Trojans had a season-low 68 points without Jacobs in the lineup against Yale, the Trojans produced their second triple-digit effort of the year and only the 39th 100+ point performance in the history of the USC basketball program.

"Jordan [McLaughlin] had six assists last game, but we only scored 68 points and we didn't have a lot of team assists," Enfield said. "Jordan and Julian are so good together moving the ball. We really need both of them to be effective offensively like we need to be and want to be."

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Jacobs was able to penetrate into the lane and kick the ball out to open shooters when Cal Poly was in its zone defense. When the Mustangs switched to man-to-man defensive coverage in the second half, Jacobs killed them on pick-and-rolls, finding the post players cutting hard to the basket for easy looks and some monster dunks.

"He moved the ball. He penetrated. He played for his teammates," Enfield said. "He was very unselfish. In fact, he gave up a layup one time to pass to his teammates."

Jacobs is now averaging 6.1 assists per game to go along with 12 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Up Next

The Trojans will try to continue their unblemished record at the Galen Center this season when they face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (3-7) at 8 p.m. PST on Monday night. SIUE's losses have been by an average of 15 points, but the Cougars have won their last two matchups.

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