In a game where USC led for just five minutes, the Trojans bore down defensively in the final frames to narrowly escape Oregon State 63-62.
“We played some really great defense in the second half,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “Really proud of our players for staying mentally tough and making the plays that we had to make.”
Sophomore guard Kobe Johnson led the team with a career-high 17 points with six rebounds and five steals.
“It’s awesome being out there and doing what I can to help this team win,” Johnson said. “It’s why I’m here.”
Aside from Johnson, redshirt junior forward Joshua Morgan racked up 15 points and three blocks. Morgan is third in the country with 3.62 blocks per game.
“I didn’t want to have another Florida Gulf Coast incident,” Morgan said, referring to USC’s loss to FGCU to open the season. “When I was up there in the press, I just thought ‘We’ve got to close this game out.’”
Both offenses struggled out of the gate with the score being 11-10 Beavers after ten minutes of play. Oregon State heated up first, going on an 8-0 scoring run to put themselves up by 11 at the half.
In the first half, the Beavers hit six threes in twelve tries from beyond the arc, well above their 30.6% season average. The Trojans made just one 3-pointer in six attempts in the first half.
However, the Trojans were able to turn the tables in the end.
“In the second half, we locked in and said, ‘Okay, this team is really shooting threes,’” Morgan said. “We made the adjustment, and their three-point percentage went down.”
With the score at 53-50 with 2:42 to go, fifth year guard Drew Peterson heaved the ball to Johnson. The sophomore drained a game-tying three from the right side, holding three fingers close to the ground in celebration.
Beavers’ junior guard Dexter Akano’s inbound pass tipped off the hands of senior guard Boogie Ellis who saved the ball from going out of bounds by passing it to Peterson. The fifth year then passed it to Johnson again, who made the layup to give USC its first lead since 9:55 in the first half.
Peterson capped off an 8-0 Trojans run by recovering the ball off the glass and putting one in to make it 57-53, a lead that USC held on to for the rest of the game.
“Our defensive intensity changed in the final minutes,” Enfield said. “Our press and our zone defense really helped us win tonight.”
The Trojans will face off against 4-4 Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday in a non-conference matchup. USC is 6-0 all-time against the Titans.
“Just like every other team, we’re going to take them seriously,” Johnson said. “Whatever the record is, we’re not going to make anything of it.”