Freshman Evan Mobley scores season-best 25 points in leading USC to win at Cal
The star freshman stood at the free-throw line, ready to put the Trojans’ long, frustrating week behind.
One game ended in ugly defeat. Another never tipped off, after a false positive coronavirus test forced USC to postpone minutes before the scheduled start. But after several days spent stewing in defeat, languishing in a COVID-19 scare, and bouncing among three hotel rooms, Evan Mobley stood at the stripe in Berkeley, having hit 10 of his 11 attempts, with a chance to get back on track.
He clanked one, then another. But after a long week of frustrating turns, a fortunate twist saw USC reel in the offensive rebound.
It was Mobley who eventually finished the possession, pulling in another board and twisting his way through the lane for a looping hook shot that put California away, 76-68.
Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Domani Jackson, one of the highest-rated players in the 2022 football recruiting class, announced his commitment to USC on Saturday.
A nightmarish week ended in a career night for the freshman, as Mobley dominated the paint, scoring a career-high 25 points and forcing his way to the line for 15 attempts.
He was far more aggressive against the Bears, establishing himself in the paint early on after coaches challenged him to be less meek following the Trojans’ loss earlier in the week to Oregon State.
“He was much more aggressive tonight,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “He’s getting better, and we demanded that of him this week. He responded in a huge way.”
For USC, the bounce-back victory came at an especially critical juncture in the season, with two of the Pac-12’s top teams awaiting the Trojans over the next two weeks.
They still have issues to solve on offense before then as the Trojans went cold for prolonged stretches again Saturday.
But with Mobley playing aggressively, the floor tends to open for the rest of his teammates.
That was true again for senior guard Tahj Eaddy, who scored 18, stepping up precisely whenever the star freshman seemed to go cold.
Highlights from USC’s 76-68 victory at Cal on Saturday night.
A resurgent Ethan Anderson could certainly help matters.
The point guard looked much better against California, a week after returning from a back injury.
His defense was crucial down the stretch, as both teams struggled to shoot over the final few minutes.
“We need him to keep elevating his game,” Enfield said. “He’s not back to where he was, but tonight was a great start to getting Ethan back.”
Stanford’s Oscar da Silva made a layup at the buzzer on an inbounds play to give UCLA its first Pac-12 loss this season, 73-72 in overtime in Santa Cruz.
Both teams were held without a basket for at least four minutes late in the second half, each unable to take advantage of the other’s slump.
But as Mobley began demanding the ball again late, scoring 17 in the second half, USC was able to hold off California.
The Trojans hoped to fit in another game before leaving the Bay Area. But requests to make up their postponed meeting with Stanford this week were denied by the Cardinal.
“We were willing to play because we’re here,” Enfield said. “We thought Monday would be a good day. But that’s not my decision.”
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