His teammates yelled at him to keep shooting and coach Andy Enfield joked that his friends and family members were going to leave Galen Center if he did not make a shot.
The comments were all in good nature, but Elijah Stewart knew Sunday that he had to turn around an ugly first half.
The USC senior guard erupted for all of his 16 points, including four three-point baskets, in the second half as the Trojans overcame a slow start to defeat California 77-59 for a sixth consecutive victory.
“When the first one went in I just got my confidence back,” Stewart said.
The Trojans (17-6, 8-2 Pac-12 Conference) remain in second place in the conference behind No. 11 Arizona (18-4, 8-1). USC’s conference winning streak is its longest since 1992, when it won nine games in a row.
“Any time you win it’s big,” said Jordan McLaughlin, who had nine points and 10 assists. “And the fact that we’ve got six in a row now, got to keep it going.”
California appeared upset-minded as USC started sluggish and settled for tough shots.
The Bears (7-15, 1-8) went on a nine-point run in the first half to take a 16-8 lead as the Trojans made only three of 16 shots (19%) and suffered through a 5-minute 37-second scoring drought.
“We kept driving in the middle of the lane and flipping balls up and leaving our feet,” Enfield said. “They were poor shots.”
Jonah Mathews came off the bench and made a three-point basket to spark a 15-2 run.
USC forced 14 turnovers in the first half and led 31-29 at the break.
“We’re playing great defense,” Enfield said. “It gives us a chance to stay in the game until we shoot the ball better.”
Stewart made three three-point baskets early in the second half as USC opened a 20-point lead with 2:46 to play. Mathews finished with four three-pointers.
Stewart and Mathews, coming off a team-best performance against Stanford, led the Trojans with 16 points each.
“Our energy was slow in the first half,” McLaughlin said. “Coach talked about it at halftime.
“In the second half we got the ball moving and were playing together.”
vs. UCLA, Saturday, at Pauley Pavilion, 3 p.m. TV: ESPN2. Radio: 710. The crosstown rivals split their regular-season series last year before UCLA (15-7, 6-4) knocked off USC in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament.