The game was all but over about five minutes into the second half of USC’s 88-63 win over Lehigh on Wednesday when guard Elijah Stewart saw a missed basket, sprung into the air and threw down a put-back dunk that shook the basket. Then he hung there, swinging with one arm on the rim. He lingered. He mugged for the crowd.
He mugged for too long. The referee called a technical foul. Coach Andy Enfield looked annoyed. Stewart was pulled, briefly, from the game.
Not that it mattered. USC was too long, too fast and shot much too well for Lehigh. The Trojans had to find other ways to occupy themselves. Forward Bennie Boatwright laughed with a referee during a stoppage. Forward Chimezie Metu danced to the public address music.
After scuffling in a win over North Dakota State and surviving in overtime at Vanderbilt, No. 10 USC (4-0) did what a top-10 team is supposed to do. It dominated overmatched Lehigh.
USC shot 12 of 26 from three-point range — 46%. The Trojans outrebounded Lehigh 49-32. USC had nearly as many offensive rebounds (18) as Lehigh had on the defensive end (19).
USC has showed of its depth and balance in its first four games. Metu dominated the first win. Boatright owned the second. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin saved USC in the third.
This time, guard Jonah Mathews flashed the upside that can make USC a dangerous team. Already one of USC’s best on-ball defenders, Mathews has been a streaky shooter. When he finds consistency, he can be an all-around performer. On Wednesday, he made seven of 10 shots from the field, the second best shooting performance of his career, save a game when he went three for four. He scored 18 points and had seven rebounds.
Four USC players scored in double figures. Stewart had 13, Metu had 15 with nine rebounds and Boatwright led USC with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Guard De’Anthony Melton did not play for the fourth consecutive game as USC investigates his eligibility.
Lehigh (3-2) scored the game’s first points. USC overcame to lead for the game’s final 39 minutes.
Kahron Ross single-handedly kept Lehigh close in the first half. He scored 20 first-half points, including 13 of Lehigh’s final 15 points over the last seven minutes. Though he’d score just four more in the second half, he winnowed USC’s lead to 10 at halftime.
Then USC began the second-half with a 10-0 run, Stewart threw down his putback and the remaining 14 minutes and 36 seconds were little more than a formality.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand