ALBUQUERQUE — With shots from the outside failing to fall Sunday, USC was able to pound it down low to power forwards Darion Clark, Nikola Jovanovic and Strahinj Gavrilovic against New Mexico.
That was difference for the Trojans in a 66-54 win, said USC Coach Andy Enfield.
“I thought Darion Clark really set the tone with 12 points, 11 rebounds,” he said. “Nikola got into it and was rebounding at a high level; he had seven offensive rebounds.”
Jovanovic had 10 points to go along with his career-high 16 rebounds and Gavrilovic added eight points and four boards for the Trojans (4-3).
“Any time you get that production from your bigs, you have a chance to win any game you’re in,” Enfield said.
The Lobos (3-3) got unexpected production from their interior players, as well, as Devon Williams had career highs in points (15) and rebounds (10), while Obij Aget added a career 11 points and 10 boards.
“If you had told me before the game that Obij was going to get 11 and 10 and Devon was going to get 15 and 10, I would think we would win by double figures,” New Mexico Coach Craig Neal said. “And it didn’t happen”
With the game tied at 47-47 with eight minutes left, Jovanovic scored five points in a decisive 9-1 run.
“That was a big turning point where we were able to execute on offense, get some good shots and make some shots,” Enfield said. “And defensively we got some stops and challenged their three-point shooting and rebounded the ball.”
When the Lobos tied it, “I thought we really had a chance to win the game at 47-47,” Neal said. “And we just had some breakdown mistakes on communications to give them open layups. But give them credit, they made plays and we didn’t make plays.”
For New Mexico, Hugh Greenwood was unable to make plays all game, going scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting, 0 for 9 on three-pointers.
“Any time you have a player like Greenwood, he’s an explosive scorer,” Enfield said. “Any time he gets going in this atmosphere in the Pit, it would be tough to win the game. So we tried to trap him on all ball screens. Katin Reinhardt guarded him one-on-one most of the game and did an outstanding job, forcing him into taking tough shots. Greenwood is such an excellent offensive player. We knew it would be tough but we never imagined we would hold him scoreless. That’s just a testament to how well we played defensively.”
Shooting, particularly from outside, was an issue for both teams. USC went four for 17 from beyond the arc and New Mexico was three for 24.
“We did everything we thought that we could do,” Neal said. “We held them to 38% on two-pointers and 23% from three, which, any time you can do that, you think you’re going to win. But you don’t think you’re going to shoot 12% from three-point line yourself.”