USC men’s basketball took care of Cal State Northridge 89-49 Tuesday night in their season opener at Galen Center. The returning Trojans received their Elite Eight rings before the game, and USC played in front of the Trojan faithful for the first time in nearly 20 months.
“It was super cool seeing all of those highlights and finally getting to cherish that memory with all of the fans,” junior forward Isaiah Mobley said of the ring ceremony. “It wasn’t that easy to click back in game mode, but we ended up doing well and it was a great night all the way through.”
Coming into the season, USC needed to replace 30 points per game with the departures of Evan Mobley and Tahj Eaddy. Combining for 35 points, Isaiah Mobley and junior guard Boogie Ellis looked ready to fill the void.
Ellis doubled his season average from the 2020-21 season, pouring in 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting. The transfer from Memphis was a spark on both ends of the floor, adding two steals, one of which he finished off with a dunk and a blown kiss for his new home crowd to punctuate a 19-0 USC run late in the first half.
“He’s an excellent scorer and playmaker,” Mobley said of playing with Ellis. “It was real fun for me and I look forward to keeping on going with him.”
Mobley only played 10 minutes in the second half, but he too eclipsed his scoring mark from last season to go along with nine rebounds, a steal and a block.
The former McDonald’s All-American scored 13 of his 17 points in the opening frame, including a massive alley-oop slam off a lob from junior guard Ethan Anderson that forced a CSUN timeout less than three minutes into the game.
“We have a really skilled frontcourt, not as traditional as other teams,” Mobley said. “That makes it definitely a strength for us. Us being strong inside, when those teams start collapsing, we’re getting kick outs to Boogie and the rest of the dudes knocking down threes.”
In addition to the individual brilliance of Ellis and Mobley, free-throw shooting and defense ultimately ran up the score for the Trojans.
While just one game in, the Trojans made 11 of their 13 attempts from the foul line Tuesday night, good for 84.6%. USC’s performance from the charity stripe tonight was better than any single-game mark from the season prior.
USC held CSUN to just 26.7% from the field, better than all but one performance from the 2020-21 Trojans. The Matadors only managed one make from deep on the night, shooting just 11% from beyond the arc, equalling last year’s season-best from the USC defense.
“We were doing the little things today,” Ellis said of the defensive performance. “Talking, [being in the gaps], communicating, I feel like that’s a big thing for us. We struggled a little bit in our scrimmages with allowing offensive rebounds. I feel like we did a great job tonight with boxing out and getting rebounds.”
The Trojans travel to Philadelphia for their next matchup against Temple Saturday at 4 p.m.