No. 5 USC avoided its second consecutive loss with an 81-71 victory over Oregon State on Thursday at Galen Center. After suffering their first defeat at the hands of Stanford on Tuesday, the Trojans came back from as many as 10 points down to secure their 14th win of the season.
“Tonight was a very intense, physical basketball game,” head coach Andy Enfield said after the game. “I thought Oregon State played really well, but we did what we had to do late in the game to get the victory.”
The Trojans never led at any point in the first half, trailing by as many as nine points in the opening 20 minutes.
OSU nailed its first four attempts from beyond the arc, including a tough fadeaway from senior guard Jarod Lucas that extended the Beaver advantage to 23-15 with nine minutes to play in the first half.
Lucas finished the opening frame with 16 points on 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. It was Lucas’ best performance of the season, finishing with a game-high 27 points on six 3-pointers.
“[Lucas] was really impressive tonight with his quick release and his shot making,” Enfield said. “When he shoots it like that, you just try to grind out a win.”
Despite coming into the night with a -46 scoring margin in first halves this season, the Beavers closed with a 5-0 run in the final two minutes to take a 42-37 advantage into the break.
USC’s second-half charge was led by senior forward Chevez Goodwin, who poured in 14 of his team-high 20 points and grabbed 10 of his game-high 12 rebounds (including a season-high nine offensive boards) in the latter frame.
Over a five-minute stretch in the second half, Goodwin poured in nine points as part of a 20-5 run that took USC from down nine to ahead by six. Two of those points came on a putback slam that put the Trojans ahead 57-56 – their first lead of the night — with under 11 minutes to go.
“He’s just relentless,” Enfield said. “I thought this was one of his most impressive games as a Trojan the way he battled.”
“I know I can trust him,” junior forward Isaiah Mobley said. “He’s a hard worker. I love playing with him. I don’t care what the critics say, what the Twitter bugs say.”
Freshman guard Reese Dixon-Waters played a career-high 17-and-a-half minutes, going a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and adding one make from deep as he tied a career-high with nine points. Dixon-Waters was a team-high +19 on the night.
Dixon-Waters also contributed with a huge offensive rebound, finding senior guard Drew Peterson for three to put USC back ahead 70-67 with five minutes to play.
“I’ve been in his ear all season,” Mobley said, “telling him ‘I can’t tell you when it’s going to come, so just stay ready.’ And he did that, so I tip my hat to him.”
Peterson equalled his season-high 17 points to go along with seven boards and four assists in his team-leading 35-and-a-half minutes.
Mobley only chipped in 11 points, four fewer than his season average of 15, but a personal 6-0 run put USC ahead 76-71 with two minutes remaining.
“I was telling him, ‘Let’s get food. He can’t guard you,’” Goodwin said. “You give him the ball in that post, it’s going to be two points. I guard him in practice. I try to stop him. I can’t.”
“That’s the type of leadership we need from him,” Enfield said. “Even though he struggled offensively for the first 36 minutes, when it mattered most he came up big.”
The win improves USC to 14-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play. The Trojans will take on Oregon Saturday at 8 p.m. back at Galen Center.