LAS VEGAS—The No. 2 seed Trojans came away with a 61-48 victory over No. 10 seed Oregon State on their first day of play in the Pac-12 Tournament. Junior Chimezie Metu led the team with a double-double, posting 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior captain Jordan McLaughlin and Sophomore Jonah Mathews also had big nights with 13 points each.
Oregon State struggled to get to the basket for the first four minutes of the game but the Trojans came out of the tunnel hot, dropping 13 points before the Beavers could even reach five. The Trojans kept running from there, never giving up their lead to the Beavers.
"It was a tough first half and we dug ourselves a hole," OSU head coach Tinkle said after the game.
The Trojans showcased great ball movement on offense, often ending in baskets from Chimezie Metu or Jonah Mathews. In the first half USC shot 40.7% to OSU's 28.6%.
Mathews shined in the first half, picking up 10 of his 13 points. But it was McLaughlin who was the steady hand setting up his teammates throughout the game.
"We just try to take their individual strengths away," USC head coach Andy Enfield said after the game. He added that the Trojans have to continue to perform defensively, saying, "in tomorrow night's game, we have to defend at a very high level to give us a chance."
Coming out of halftime, the Trojans consistently held about a 10-point lead, and it was the second half when Metu came alive, scoring 16 of his 22 points on the night. When Metu and McLaughlin combined on plays, the Trojans seemed unstoppable.
Metu, who had been implicated in a report from Yahoo! Sports about the FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball, credited his team for "being able to face adversity and still come out everyday at practice and games and stay focused on what [the Trojans] have to do."
While USC played well overall, Senior Elijah Stewart had a notable off night. With just two points, his stat line looked far from his season average of 11.5 points. Additionally, redshirt sophomore Derryck Thornton is recovering from an illness and sat out the game. Coach Enfield is hopeful Thornton will gain some strength before tomorrow to be able to come off the bench.
Up next, the Trojans will take on the winner of the No. 3 seed Utah vs. No. 6 seed Oregon game. As the No. 3 seed Utah also had a first round bye. Oregon State is coming off a 64-62 first round win over Washington State.
USC's semifinal game will tipoff tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. in T-Mobile Arena.