"You see his development. He’s a much better player now than he was a month ago and even two months ago. He keeps learning."
That's USC head coach Andy Enfield talking about freshman forward Chimezie Metu. Metu was a shining star for the Trojans as his speed and quickness, along with a jumper that continues to look better and better, was a matchup issue for UCLA in USC's 89-75 victory Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion..
Coming into the game, we said the battle of the bigs could very well decide the outcome of the game. However, we expected it to be the mismatch ability of Bennie Boatwright stepping out to shoot 3-pointers that would be USC's best asset at the forward position. Instead, it was his fellow freshman, Metu.
UCLA's starting forward tandem of Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh gave USC fits all night. Parker was just too big and too strong for the Trojans. The Bruins did a good job of deploying Welsh at the elbow and on the baseline where he was able to knock down open midrange jumpers to keep Andy Enfield from being able to double Parker with both post players, which USC was successful with during the Arizona game.
Nikola Jovanovic and Boatwright both were in foul trouble for much of the night. They had to sit after picking up two fouls in the first half and then sitting early in the second half after both collected their third fouls in the first 1:45. USC needed a spark. It needed an answer. The Trojans needed something -- or someone -- to right the balance even if not tilting it in their favor.
Metu was the man to do that.
The freshman scored 14 of his career-high 21 points in the first half, giving the Trojans the boost they needed to run ahead with an 18-point lead. He got on the board with a jumper, showing confidence in a shot that he has been developing with hard work in practice with assistant coach Jason Hart.
"I’ve been shooting like 1,000 shots a day from like five different spots on the court. I just try to lock in on making every shot."
A couple of minutes later, he swatted a shot off the glass on one end and then produced a wicked spin move and left-handed finger roll that left Welsh a step behind.
"I played against him in high school and he is a really skilled player," Welsh said. "He also had some great opportunities."
Metu added six points, scoring on three straight possessions during a quick 8-3 run. The first points showed Metu's fearlessness. He went to the basket attacking Parker at the rim. Parker rejected his shot, but Metu recovered and showing his youthful stubborness went right back at Parker. This time he was fouled and knocked down both free throws.
The next two times down the floor, Metu showed his ability and skill. He used his quickness to get a step on Parker and hit a hanging bank shot that had him hovering in the air and then he drained a mid-range jumper as the defense sagged to not let him beat them with his quick first step.
"He’s so quick and athletic. For him, he needs to use his legs, his speed, his quickness to have an impact in the game and do something different than a guy like Tony Parker. who just posts up. He’s learning how to do that."
"Metu got away from us. He was terrific," UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
"He played a huge game," USC's Jordan McLaughlin said. "It was really because of him that we got out to a big lead. He had a couple of buckets back-to-back-to-back. He was getting blocks and rebounds on defense and we were able to run on defense because of that."