Before the college basketball season started last month,
USC, ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in the preseason, returned a deep, talented roster from last year's
The Huskies, meanwhile, were picked to finish 10th in the
But the early-season promise for USC faded Friday night as Washington defeated the Trojans 88-81 in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The season is still young. But USC's uninspired performance in front of an equally uninspired crowd of 3,104 at the Galen Center — the in-game host had to beg fans to make noise — raised questions about the team's direction.
"Our defense was just terrible," USC coach
USC (9-5) ended the nonconference portion of its schedule by winning three games to capture the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. But worrisome signs preceded the tournament: losses in four of six games and a leaky defense that ranked 207th in the country in points allowed entering Friday's game.
USC cut Washington's lead to five points after a layup by junior Bennie Boatwright with 12:16 remaining.
But Huskies junior Dominic Green, averaging 4.2 points per game in his career, responded with a three-pointer, part of his 16-point effort off the bench. Washington (11-3) quickly built a 12-point lead and kept USC at arm's length the remainder of the game.
Junior Chimezie Metu led USC with 26 points — eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for his career — and Boatwright contributed 24 points.
Once again, sophomore De'Anthony Melton watched the game wearing a gray sweatsuit on the bench. The team's best defender — the Trojans lacked an answer to slow Washington's three-guard offense — has been held out of all 14 games by the school this season in connection with the college basketball bribery investigation.
Junior Noah Dickerson scored 17 points for Washington — which upset then-No.2 Kansas earlier this month — to go along with 16 points from freshman Jaylen Nowell.
Another junior, Matisse Thybulle, put an exclamation point on the victory with a three-pointer off a kick-out pass with 1:39 left, as the Huskies shot 73.1% from the field in the second half.
"We just did not stop them," Enfield said.