Men’s basketball is off to best start since 2001 with weekend wins

first_imgDialing it up from 3-point range was the mantra for the men’s basketball team this past weekend, as it defeated both SMU and UC Santa Barbara in a pair of games at the Galen Center. With a hard fought 78-73 win over SMU on Friday night and a 96-72 victory against visiting UC Santa Barbara (0-5) Sunday, the Trojans improved to 6-0 on the season — the best start for the team since the 2000-2001 season, when the team started 8-0.In both its victories, USC shot a combined 26-of-59 (44 percent) from behind the 3-point line. In Sunday’s victory, the Trojan offense was dominated by shooting three-point field goals — 35 of USC’s 61 shots attempted against UC Santa Barbara came from beyond the 3-point line. “We were just playing with the flow of the game. If we’re knocking down three’s, we’re going to keep shooting them,” said junior guard Jordan McLaughlin, who was 3-for-3 from 3-point range against UC Santa Barbara Sunday. “[UC Santa Barbara] was playing a lot of zone defense tonight, and we were able to hit our shots; we just try to play fast and unselfish basketball.”Sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright shot 9-of-18 from beyond the arc over the two games this weekend. In both Friday and Sunday’s games, Boatwright was the leading scorer for USC, recording game-highs in scoring against SMU and UC Santa Barbara with 17 and 21 points, respectively. “He was much more fluid tonight. He was quicker with his decision-making. He shot the ball well,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “He’s getting back to where he needs to be.” In Sunday’s victory against the Gauchos, sophomore forward Chimezie Metu filled the stat sheet, recording 15 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Metu — who struggled as a free throw shooter in his freshman season, but has shown consistent improvement as a sophomore — went 7-of-8 from the foul line against UC Santa Barbara Sunday. As has become routine early on this season, USC’s freshmen performed well throughout the weekend. On Friday against SMU, freshman guard De’Anthony Melton scored a career-high 15 points, reeled in a team-high six rebounds and recorded five assists. Melton followed that performance up on Sunday against Santa Barbara by scoring six points, recording five assists and grabbing three rebounds. Melton also had four steals on Sunday — he currently leads the Pac-12 in steals with 18 so far this season.“Anytime you can generate steals or blocked shots it can lead to good opportunities in transition,” Enfield said. “When [Melton] is able to create those opportunities, you see our offense flowing at a much more efficient rate.” Freshman guard Jonah Mathews also recorded a career-high 14 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field against SMU; he went 7-of-10 from the free throw line. On Sunday, freshman forward Niko Rakocevic scored 6 of his 8 points late in the second half, as the Trojans widened their lead on Santa Barbara. Rakocevic pulled in four rebounds Sunday and recorded a blocked shot. Scoring surges in the second half were essential for the Trojans in both of their victories this weekend. After ending the first half against SMU with a slim 28-27 lead, USC went on an 11-0 second half run that eventually led it to victory. Against UC Santa Barbara, USC outscored the Guachos 53-34 in the second half to put the contest out of reach. As it built its lead in the second half against Santa Barbara, USC outrebounded the Gauchos by a margin of 21-12 to close out the game.Sunday’s game against UC Santa Barbara closed out a three-game home stand for the Trojans, who will now hit the road to take on the University of San Diego at Jenny Craig Pavilion on Wednesday.last_img