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USC Sports

Ethan Anderson’s big shots spark USC to victory over LSU

USC guard Daniel Utomi (4) celebrates with forward Nick Rakocevic after scoring late in the game against LSU on Dec. 21, 2019, at Staples Center.
USC guard Daniel Utomi (4) celebrates with forward Nick Rakocevic after scoring late in the game against LSU on Saturday at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

After seeing so many open shots clank off the rim, Ethan Anderson couldn’t help but celebrate. So when the freshman made a big three-point basket that put USC ahead by five points with 3 minutes 9 seconds to play against Louisiana State on Saturday in Staples Center, Anderson skipped twice down the court, swinging his arm in a circle.

Anderson said he was “so happy” after the shot, but the Fairfax High alumnus still wore a serious expression during the celebration. He never stops competing.

Behind clutch shooting from the point guard, USC hung on for a 70-68 victory over Louisiana State and secured a key win over a power conference team before Pac-12 Conference play begins in January.

Anderson, who missed his first six shots, scored 11 points, all in the final 9:21, and had six assists and two steals. He made two three-pointers to bookend a 13-2 USC run in the second half that put the Trojans (10-2) ahead 66-61.

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“That’s what I expect as a head coach, our staff expects that, his teammates expect that — to come in and play like he did down the stretch because he’s a heck of a basketball player,” coach Andy Enfield said of Anderson.

Jermaine Samuels’ three-pointer with 20.5 seconds left was the difference as Villanova beat Kansas, making the Jayhawks the latest No. 1 team to lose.

“He makes freshman mistakes. However, we have confidence in him and we’re going to ride with our young guys.”

The Tigers (7-4) held Onyeka Okongwu to 10 points, but the Chino Hills alumnus got nine rebounds and four blocks, including the game-sealing play as he blocked Javonte Smart’s rushed shot from the free-throw line as time expired after USC senior Jonah Mathews missed the front end of a one and one.

Anderson was riding a shooting drought that extended over two games; he was 0 for 4 in USC’s victory over Long Beach State. He had open shots early but missed them. His confidence waned. As his frustration built, he drove into the lane, hoping to provide a spark with a big dunk. Instead, he got stonewalled.

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But the coaching staff didn’t say much to the competitive freshman. This was a player from Carson who woke up every day at 5:30 a.m. to drive 45 minutes to go to school. He was the L.A. City Section player of the year after leading Fairfax to an Open Division championship.

“What am I going to tell a kid that’s done that? ‘You’re playing like crap?’ ” Enfield said. “No, I’m going to just let him be and when I put him back in the game, I expect him to show that toughness and that competitive spirit he showed throughout his whole high school career.”

USC guard Jonah Mathews strips the ball from LSU guard Skylar Mays during the first half of a game on Dec. 21, 2019, at Staples Center.
USC guard Jonah Mathews strips the ball from LSU guard Skylar Mays during the first half of a game on Saturday at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Anderson said all the early wake-up calls and long drives were worth it because it got him in a much better position to be recruited for college.

He lamented Saturday, standing in a hallway in Staples Center, that he was ranked in the 300s as a recruit: 327th nationally, according to the 247Sports composite. He is an undersized 6 feet 1 and averaged only five points entering Saturday’s game, but he proved that the best skills can’t always be measured.

“I always play with a chip on my shoulder,” Anderson said. “Toughness is one thing that I can control always.”


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