USC could get Bennie Boatwright back for game against Washington

USC forward Bennie Boatwright, center, celebrates a Trojans three-pointer with his teammates during a game against UCLA at Galen Center on Jan. 25.
USC forward Bennie Boatwright, center, celebrates a Trojans three-pointer with his teammates during a game against UCLA at Galen Center on Jan. 25.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

A week after its best win of the season, USC may be able to add another kind of victory: the return of forward Bennie Boatwright from injury.

Whether Boatwright will play will be a game-time decision when USC (18-4 overall, 5-4 in Pac-12 Conference play) visits Washington (9-12, 2-7) on Wednesday evening in Seattle.

“He practiced the last couple days,” USC Coach Andy Enfield said. “He didn’t go long, but he’s getting healthier and stronger. … If he feels like he can go, then we’ll let him play. But he’s got to be 100%. We’re not going to play him unless he feels really good about it.”


Without Boatwright, who is recovering from a sprained ligament in his knee and has played just four full games this season, USC has kept itself comfortably in NCAA tournament contention and alive in conference play. But Boatwright could have elevated the Trojans to a higher level. They could have used his help in close home losses to California and Arizona.

However, playing without Boatwright allowed more development time for freshmen guards De’Anthony Melton and Jonah Mathews, who have both jumped into the starting lineup, and forward Nick Rakocevic, another occasional starter.

All three will still play significant minutes when Boatwright returns. Enfield indicated Boatwright won’t return to a heavy workload, at least at first.

“If anyone can get back quickly,” Enfield added, “it’ll be Bennie because he works so hard at it.”

USC can build off its upset of No. 8 UCLA last Wednesday with another first: a road sweep. After struggling on the road last season at 3-7, USC has found comfort away from home this season. It is 4-2 in away games and 3-0 in neutral-site games.

But the Trojans have yet to win both games of a Pac-12 road series during Enfield’s tenure.

Enfield said USC has “done a good job away from home this year so far. I think there has been some maturity.”

He added, “We haven’t even thought about a road sweep. … We’re not good enough to worry about games down the road.”



When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle

On the air: TV: ESPNU. Radio: 710.

Update: USC is off to its best start since 1992, when it also began 18-4. Boatwright may not be the only player making a return Wednesday. Forward Charles Buggs, who has missed the last two games with knee discomfort, is also a game-time decision, Enfield said. … Washington has lost three consecutive games and is tied for second-to-last in the Pac-12. However, the Huskies have freshman guard Markelle Fultz, who has averaged 23.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and six assists per game, putting him on pace to be the first NCAA Division I player in 25 years to average at least 20 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Fultz is on pace to have the Pac-12’s best scoring average in 25 years, since California’s Ed Gray averaged 24.8 in 1997. “He’s a special talent,” Enfield said. “Offensively, he’s a big guard that has quickness, he sees the floor and he can change direction, he’s got a great spin move and he can shoot the ball.”

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand