The last time the Trojans were this good playing in front of the home crowd was during World War II.
Back at home after a poor trip to the Oregon schools last weekend, USC won 81-71 over Washington State Thursday night at the Galen Center to remain perfect in front of the USC fans. The Trojans improved their unblemished home record to 12-0 -- the best mark since they went 13-0 at home in 1943.
USC (16-5, 5-3) pulled out the victory thanks to a balanced scoring attack that featured seven players with eight or more points, including five Trojans scoring in double figures. Katin Reinhardt led the way with 18 points, including 13 in the first half. Nikola Jovanovic had 12 points and seven rebounds while freshman Chimezie Metu nearly equaled those numbers off the bench, scoring 12 and grabbing six boards.
Ike Iroegbu led Washington State (9-11, 1-7) with 21 points and added six assists. Double-double machine Josh Hawkinson had 16 points and 11 rebounds while Que Johnson added 16 points off the bench. But no other Cougar had more than six points with starters Junior Longrus and Ny Redding both being held scoreless.
Both teams shot well from the floor. USC made 46.6 percent of its shots while Washington State hit 45.5 percent.
Here's three takeaways from USC bouncing back from a rough road trip with a win over the Cougars:
Despite practicing all week and giving Andy Enfield no indications that he wasn't back to normal, Jordan McLaughlin still didn't look right. Coming off his worst weekend of basketball with the Trojans, McLaughlin didn't appear he was fully recovered from the more-than-week-long illness that previously sapped him of his strength and endurance. He turned the ball over on USC's second possession and he continued to struggle with his shot, missing his first five attempts. Every jumper he took was short and he had barely any lift on the ground. He looked like he was playing on dead legs.
But when Washington State went on a 10-0 run in the second half and the Trojans needed someone to make a play, the sophomore playmaker stepped up. USC had turned the ball over on five consecutive trips down the court prior to a timeout. Washington State had a chance to cut the lead to four points, but missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation. McLaughlin made them pay.
Running a pick and roll with freshman Chimezie Metu, McLaughlin got a wide open look when his defender went under the screen. Unfazed by his previous misses, McLaughlin took advantage and pulled the trigger on an open 3-pointer. He used his legs more and got better lift on the shot, draining it. After a Cougars' miss, USC got an offensive rebound and McLaughlin ran the same pick-and-roll with Metu. This time the defense hedged on him and was slow to recover on Metu. McLaughlin came around the screen, read the defense correctly and fired a pass inside to Metu, who threw down a dunk to put the Trojans back up by double digits.
USC's defense wasn't great. It allowed the Cougars to shoot 45.5 percent from the floor, including 55.3 percent on two-pointers. But the Trojans did finish both halves strong and that started on the defensive end. Trailing 39-38 after an Ike Iroegbu jumper with 4:11 to go in the first half, USC ended the first 20 minutes on a 14-2 run and didn't allow a made field goal.
The Trojans forced another shooting drought to end the game. After Washington State cut the lead to six points with 6:14 remaining, USC put the locks on the Cougars. They went more than five minutes without a field goal and had only one the rest of the game. That allowed the Trojans to pull away for the victory.
Katin Feeling at Home
Katin Reinhardt really likes playing at the Galen Center. His five games scoring more than 15 points this season have all come in front of the home crowd, including Thursday night's 18-point effort against the Cougars. Reinhardt played under control, didn't force his shot and got out to a great start in the first half, scoring 13 points on four-of-five shooting. The key was staying aggressive despite a recent shooting slump, Reinhardt said in the post-game presser.
He finished 6-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-8 on threes, which actually dropped him below 50 percent beyond the arc after he had made 26 of his first 52 long-distance shots at Galen Center this season. Reinhardt also added four rebounds, two assists and a steal while only having one turnover.
Reinhardt also eclipsed the career 1,000-point plateau with his 13 points in the first half. After scoring 355 points during his one season at UNLV, Reinhardt has 652 in his two seasons playing with USC. If you look at just his scoring,
Reinhardt has been a consistent weapon during his Trojan tenure. He averaged 12.5 points last year and is currently at a team-best 12.6 this season. But a closer look at his stats shows that his game has grown this season. One thing that stands out is his increase in shooting percentage from 38 to 43.8 percent despite his three-point percentage slightly declining. He's playing slightly less minutes, but not forcing things as much and contributing in other areas when his shot isn't falling. Reinhardt's rebounds, assists and steals are up while his turnovers are down.
USC gets an opportunity to avenge a devastating loss to Washington on Saturday at high noon. In the first matchup against the Huskies, the Trojans built a 22-point lead only for it to evaporate as turnover after turnover killed them. Junior lead guard Julian Jacobs watched from the bench as the lead disappeared after re-aggravating an ankle injury in the second half.