USC holds off Utah State, 89-84, and wins fourth in a row

USC holds off Utah State, 89-84, and wins fourth in a row
USC forward Nikola Jovanovic, shown taking a shot last season during a game against Washington, scored 16 points in an exhibition game Saturday. (Joe Nicholson / Associated Press)

The last time Utah State's basketball team had traveled to Los Angeles to play USC was 35 years ago, long before the teams' current players were born, of course.

But the result after they squared off at Galen Center on Sunday was the same as in 1979, with the Trojans defeating the Aggies, this time 89-84.


It was USC's fourth consecutive victory and its fifth victory in its last six games. Utah State suffered its fourth consecutive loss.

The Trojans' record improved to 6-3 and the Aggies fell to 3-4.

USC was led by forward Nikola Jovanovic, who scored 23 points on nine-for-11 shooting, and freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin, whose 21-point scoring included converting five three-point shots.

Indeed, much of the Trojans' attack came from long range, with USC shooting 12 for 26 (46.2%) from three-point distance.

But USC also outscored Utah State in the paint, 36 points to 26, and "we had 22 assists and only nine turnovers, which is outstanding," Coach Andy Enfield said.

The Trojans needed that effort to hold off the performance of forward David Collette, who led Utah State with 32 points.

Sophomore forward Jalen Moore, who entered the game leading Utah State's scoring with an average of 14.7 points per game, scored 18 points Sunday.

"We thought they were as talented offensively as any team we've played so far and they showed it," Enfield said. "They're really hard to stop. For us to beat this team, it took a lot. It took 89 points."

The Trojans led by as many as 11 points in the first half as McLaughlin made four of his five three-point baskets.

But Utah State clawed back and led at halftime, 41-40, as Collette was eight for eight from the field and scored 19 points in the half.

The lead see-sawed in the second half and, with 2 minutes 35 seconds left, Julian Jacobs slammed home a dunk on an alley-oop pass from McLaughlin that gave the Trojans an 83-80 lead.

That was a key moment in the game because it gave USC a bit of breathing room, Enfield said.

On alley-oops like that, McLaughlin said, "He [Jacobs] points up, and I just throw it to the top of the backboard and he finishes it."

Jovanovic's layup moments later widened USC's lead to five points and, with 47 seconds left, the Trojans' lead was six.


As Utah State then intentionally fouled the Trojans, USC missed six consecutive free throws.

"I'm just glad we had a six-point lead," Enfield said.

As USC's winning streak has continued, its home attendance has edged higher at the 10,258-seat Galen Center.

The announced attendance Sunday was 3,189, up from 2,537 on Dec. 3, when USC played Loyola Marymount and 2,297 on Nov. 25 against Cal State Fullerton.