After wrapping up a 95-68 victory over the Washington Huskies, USC is 10-2 on the season with a 4-1 conference record. The Trojans have quickly raised their profile during its six-game winning streak and after this 27-point beatdown of Washington, they look like one of the better teams in the country. Here are three observations from Thursday’s game and impressive season so far:
Coming into the season, the Trojans had the potential to be a great defensive team given the size and length up and down the roster. It took a few games of reinforcing its 3-point defense and solidifying rotations, but USC is now a top-10 defense per KenPom.
The Trojans were in the Huskies’ jerseys from tip-off, wreaking havoc, forcing turnovers and limiting them to 23 first-half points. Washington never found a rhythm offensively and finished the game making only 38% of their shot attempts.
The effort revolves around total suffocation of the paint. USC leads the entire NCAA in blocks with 6.5 per game and is limiting opponents to 36% shooting from the field, second in the nation. Freshman center Evan Mobley’s responsible for half of those blocks, and the shots at the rim he doesn’t connect with get altered regardless. He and his brother, sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley, have been key in preventing the easy shots –– dunks, layups and close finishes –– and the collective length of the rest forces players into inefficient, tough shots.
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer recently wrote a piece about the star freshman, calling Mobley “the biggest prize in the 2021 NBA Draft.” It’s right in the headline. It’s high praise, obviously, but it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the nation’s top recruits has become a premier NBA prospect. More importantly, Mobley is now firmly a name to be excited about, the type of talent that is must-watch TV.
Against Washington’s zone, Evan Mobley thrived operating as the low man, in the middle or on the perimeter. His offense didn’t jump off the screen, but he routinely made smart decisions as part of a surgical USC offensive performance. Mobley finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks –– including this impressive swat of Huskies senior guard Quade Green’s jump shot.
Isaiah Mobley led all Trojans on Thursday with 18 points, but it was an equitable scoring night with five USC players scoring in the double-digits. Without a dominating scorer on the roster, it takes a cohesive effort, crisp passing and solid shooting to put points on the board. This game was a good example of USC’s offense at its sharpest, as the team finished with 20 assists on 31 made baskets.
Junior guard Drew Peterson continued to look like a great pickup for this team, dropping 14 opportune points and grabbing seven rebounds. His unique blend of height and ball-handling skill allows him to consistently get boards and push the ball in the transition, where he thrives in finding open teammates. When Peterson hits his threes and is a scoring and playmaking threat, he becomes a dangerous weapon.
USC will finish its three-game homestand against Washington State on Saturday.