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Mobley brothers jolt USC awake from sluggish start in win over Washington

USC forward Isaiah Mobley tries to drive around Washington guard Jamal Bey.
USC forward Isaiah Mobley, right, tries to drive around Washington guard Jamal Bey during the first half of the Trojans’ 69-54 win Thursday in Seattle.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

It has been nearly a quarter century since USC last led the conference this late in February, so you’ll forgive the Trojans for forgetting what it feels like.

But for 15 minutes, as they traded baskets and bricks with the cellar-dwelling Washington Huskies early Thursday night, it seemed the Trojans might not get much time to jog their memories.

Then, Evan Mobley found his brother, Isaiah, on the baseline for a thunderous, one-handed slam, and the first-place Trojans were thrust into gear again, on their way to an 69-54 victory over Washington.

“Winning in this league is hard,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Especially on the road.”

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USC point guard Ethan Anderson missed six weeks because of back pain. Finally recovered, he has helped the Trojans into a first-place tie in the Pac-12.

For a while, No. 20 USC (16-3, 10-2 Pac-12) seemed primed for a letdown. It had lost six of its previous seven games in Seattle. It was coming off a statement-making victory over UCLA last Saturday.

And then, USC came out cold from the perimeter. For an entire half, the Trojans didn’t make a single three-pointer.

But it didn’t matter Thursday, not against Washington at least, not as USC dominated the boards and commanded the paint and erased any hope for the Huskies (3-15, 2-11) beyond the arc. What started as a back-and-forth slog saw USC surge to an 18-4 run before halftime, the switch finally flipped.

Those efforts started inside with Evan Mobley swatting anything in his path, while Isaiah Mobley worked the post with authority on offense. The star freshman was again a force on defense, managing to add 17 points to lead the team. His sophomore brother was a force on the offensive glass especially, reeling in 12 rebounds, and notching his fifth career double-double with 12 points.

Highlights from USC’s win over Washington on Thursday night.

“We’re an inside offense first,” Enfield said. “Our big guys are hard to stop.”

With nothing working outside, USC didn’t venture much out of the paint. Tahj Eaddy struggled to find a rhythm, making three of 10 from the field. Ethan Anderson, fresh off a career night against UCLA, scored just two points. So USC did most of its work around the basket, tallying 46 of its total 69 in the paint.

It was the kind of adjustment USC is built to make, with its excess of size and its star 7-footer commanding nightly double-teams. But it made for a slow start out of the gate. With just over four minutes left in the half, USC still trailed Washington 27-26.

USC rose to No. 20 in the AP men’s college basketball poll Monday on the heels of its victories over Stanford and previously ranked UCLA.

Then, like it has done so many times over its start to conference play, USC’s defense simply ground down Washington. Green didn’t score over the final 131/2 minutes. The Huskies shot less than 35% from the field and hit just two three-pointers after the half.

“Defensively, we’re very good,” Enfield said. “We challenged every shot.”

Even as USC’s offense remained slow and methodical, unable to put Washington away, its defense kept the Huskies at bay. It was the type of second-half performance that put them in first place in the first place.


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