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Something was amiss for USC’s Jonah Mathews, but then he changed shoes and his shots fell

USC guard Jonah Mathews drives past Stanford's Dorian Pickens during the second half of their game Wednesday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Change your shoes, change your luck, Jonah Mathews said.

After struggling to knock down shots through four Pac-12 Conference games, the USC sophomore guard designated a new pair of sneakers to wear on game days.

Mathews has since been a hot hand in the Trojans’ season-best five-game winning streak.

“I’m being serious,” Mathews said when asked about his recent uptick in scoring. “I wear these Jordans. … Ever since I put those on, I’ve been making shots.”

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Said senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin: “We tell him to shoot the ball any time he’s open.”

Mathews started nine games this season before he was slowed because of a sprained ankle. As USC (16-6, 7-2 Pac-12 Conference) wrapped up its nonconference schedule and opened Pac-12 play, coach Andy Enfield transitioned Mathews from a starter to a role player off the bench.

Mathews, son of Riverside City College coach Phil Mathews and brother of NBA player Jordan Mathews, initially struggled.

He was 0 for 9 from three-point range in four games and scored only six points in a loss to Washington and three in a victory at California.

But in USC’s last five victories, Mathews’ luck has turned.

He shot 58% and scored a team-best 17 points in a win over Utah and made four-of-six three-point shots to score a game-high 18 against Stanford.

“He’s been playing great offense,” Enfield said, “and giving us a big lift off the bench defensively with his deflections and on-the-ball defense.”

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Said McLaughlin: “He brings a spark.”

Despite the initial slump, Mathews said it was a natural transition to move from a starting spot to reserve, a similar role he played as a freshman.

“I play my part on the team, and they rely on me to do that,” Mathews said. “It makes it easy on me.”

UP NEXT

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VS. CALIFORNIA

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Galen Center

On the air: TV: Pac-12 Network; Radio: 830

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Update: The Trojans defeated Stanford on Wednesday and are half a game behind No. 11 Arizona for first place in the Pac-12. Starting forward Bennie Boatwright was sidelined against the Cardinal because of a blister on his foot, and Enfield said he would “probably be a game-time decision” against California. The Bears (7-14, 1-7) have lost seven in a row after defeating Stanford in a Pac-12 opener.

lindsey.thiry@latimes.com

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry


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