USC couldn't get a stop for most of the first half Thursday night and couldn't buy a basket for most of the second.
But the Trojans ended up with a double-digit victory anyway, defeating Washington State, 81-71, to improve to 12-0 in the Galen Center.
Seven USC players scored at least eight points in the team's return to Los Angeles after last week's 0-2 trip to Oregon.
Junior guard Katin Reinhardt led the way with 18 points, 13 in the first half.
“We lost two games in a row, so for us it was a must-win game,” Reinhardt said. “We knew we had to protect our home court.”
The Trojans, 16-5 overall and 5-3 in the Pac-12 Conference, needed all of Reinhardt's offensive production as they attempted to quell the Cougars attack.
Washington State Coach Ernie Kent implored his team to push the ball from the opening tip, and that strategy paid dividends.
At one point, the teams combined for seven points in eight seconds.
“I thought Washington State did a great job in the first half of making tough shots,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “Even though both teams were scoring a lot, I thought our defense was solid.”
Washington State (9-11, 1-7) never led by more than two points, and after taking a one-point lead with 4:11 remaining in the first half the Cougars were outscored, 14-2, the rest of the half.
“We switched to our matchup zone and I thought that was effective,” Enfield said of the late run. “It was just an adjustment we made in a timeout and it worked.”
USC lost the second-half battle, 30-29, but clamped down defensively with some well-timed traps that forced Washington State to slow the tempo.
The Trojans held the Cougars to four-of-18 shooting from the perimeter, and benefited from Washington State guard Ike Iroegbu's cooling off after a 16-point opening half. Iroegbu finished with 21 points.
A three-pointer and putback by the Cougars cut USC's advantage to six points with six minutes remaining, but the Trojans got a lift from sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin, who made a three-point shot and then assisted on a dunk by freshman big man Chimezie Metu.
McLaughlin made only two of eight shots but after dealing with a fever in Oregon, his late-game contributions were a positive sign that he's returning to form.
“Jordan I thought played well,” Enfield said. “He's fine, he'll be fine. Nobody's going to shoot perfect or play great every game.”
Junior forward Nikola Jovanovic had 12 points and seven rebounds and Metu finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two steals, one leading to a breakaway dunk.
Metu also threw down an alley-oop from Reinhardt that drew the loudest reaction of the night from a packed crowd—a relatively new phenomenon at USC basketball games.
“We looked up in the student section and saw that it was full,” Reinhardt said. “That's fun. It means a lot.”
USC is one of three Pac-12 teams with an undefeated home record, along with Cal and Oregon.
For the first time since 2011, the Trojans defeated a conference opponent by double digits in both of their regular-season meetings.
“We know how good we are,” Reinhardt said. “Today was a step in the right direction.”