Basketball

USC men’s basketball beats San Diego State to win Paycom Wooden Legacy

The Trojans dominated defensively as they remain perfect on the season.

A photo of USC's bench, wearing cardinal shorts and jackets, celebrating during the Trojans' win Friday.

Legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant once said “defense wins championships.” USC, a traditional football blue-blood, put the old football adage to the test in hoops on Friday and passed with flying colors as it defeated San Diego State 58-43 in the Paycom Wooden Legacy championship game in Anaheim.

The Trojans put on a defensive clinic in the first half. After allowing 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting to begin the game, the defense clamped down. In the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Aztecs went without a field goal, missing their final 11 shots from the field and scoring just two points. That allowed USC to turn a six-point first-half deficit into a seven-point halftime lead.

While the USC defense was ferocious against the Aztecs, the offense lacked its fangs. Despite 18 points and 12 rebounds from junior forward Isaiah Mobley along with 16 points from senior guard Drew Peterson, USC struggled, scoring a season low. The Trojans also shot an abysmal 6-of-18 from the free-throw line and 4-of-14 from deep.

“It was a messy, grind out and hard game, but we pulled it out,” Mobley said on the Trojans’ performance.

Mobley has been inconsistent playing inside this season, but on a night when he could not find his 3-point shot (he went 1-of-5 from deep), he dominated inside the paint — securing his first double-double of the season.

“It is something I have been working on, so it was a great test for me,” Mobley said on his interior performance.

It was much of the same in the second half as San Diego State’s offense could never find its rhythm. It took the Aztecs 25 minutes to reach 20 points.

As the defense continued to dominate, the Trojan offense started to heat up. USC began the second half 5-of-8 from the field, extending the lead from seven to 15 in the first four minutes of the second half.

Led by sophomore guard Lamont Butler’s nine second-half points, the Aztecs cut the lead to eight twice down the stretch, but five points apiece from Peterson and junior guard Ethan Anderson kept San Diego State at bay.

Cal transfer senior guard Matt Bradley, San Diego State’s leading scorer, never found his rhythm, finishing with three points after scoring his only bucket of the game with under two minutes to play. Bradley’s struggles were matched by USC junior guard Boogie Ellis, who put up two points — well below his season average of 17.

Senior guard Trey Pulliam finished with a team-high 11 points and senior forward Aguek Arop added nine for the Aztecs.

After emptying the bench through the first five games, USC head coach Andy Enfield tightened the rotation on Friday. Only freshman guard Reese Dixon-Waters, junior forward Max Agbonkpolo and redshirt sophomore forward Joshua Morgan saw action off the bench.

The win moves No. 24 USC to a perfect 6-0 to begin the season. Up next, USC plays a pair of Pac-12 games, beginning with Utah on Wednesday at Galen Center.