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USC obliterates Stanford 79-42 to keep faint Pac-12 title hopes alive

Stanford forward Ziaire Williams shoots over USC guard Drew Peterson.
Stanford forward Ziaire Williams, left, shoots over USC guard Drew Peterson during the first half on Wednesday at Galen Center.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Their suffocating defense was wavering. Their grip atop the Pac-12 had already slipped amid an ice-cold two-loss trip to the Rockies. But USC was still holding on for dear life in a dead heat atop the conference, still clinging to second place as Oregon caught fire and UCLA fell apart in the minutes before Wednesday’s tipoff.

Just nine days ago, USC held its title fate in its own hands. But that felt like ancient history now after the losses to Arizona and Colorado and Utah. After winning 13 of 14, the Trojans had dropped three of four, ready to take all of its frustrations out on a Stanford team missing its leading scorer. Their dwindling title chances depended on it.

That desperation was clear, as USC snapped back to form against Stanford in a 79-42 beatdown marked by one of its most stifling defensive performances of the season.

It came after a stretch of four games in one week that left USC “flat out exhausted,” coach Andy Enfield said.

“I never make excuses when we lose games,” Enfield said, “but when I went back and watched the second half of the Utah game, it looked like we were moving at 50% speed.”

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The victory keeps USC’s Pac-12 hopes alive, albeit on life support. As Oregon came back to beat UCLA, any chance of the Trojans (20-6, 14-5) controlling their fate in the race disappeared. If they can beat the Bruins when the rivals meet Saturday, they’ll have to hope Oregon State can beat Oregon at home when they meet a day later.

USC defeated Arizona State 71-65 on the first day of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. The Trojans will play Stanford on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Oregon has played two fewer games than USC this season, and when asked about the Pac-12 title picture, Enfield noted that it was “disappointing that Oregon doesn’t have to play UCLA at Pauley like it’s supposed to.”

But winning percentage feels no empathy in deciding the conference race.

USC didn’t wait long to take control where it could on Wednesday. As USC swarmed the perimeter and clogged the paint, Stanford started two of 22 from the field, unable to conjure up any sort of offense.

USC was slow to start as well with six turnovers in six minutes. But with its defense leading the way, the Trojans fired off a 15-0 run and never looked back.

USC held Stanford to 25 % shooting, outrebounded the Cardinal by a margin of 28 and surrendered the season’s fewest points.

“We got back to ourselves, and I feel like tonight proved that we got back to who we are and who we’re capable of being,” said Chevez Goodwin, who scored eight points. “I feel like we’re back on track now.”

Tahj Eaddy led the way with 16 points. Drew Peterson added 15.

In any normal year, Wednesday would’ve marked Senior Night as well as the final chance to celebrate freshman Evan Mobley in front of a home crowd. But the Trojans’ highest-rated recruit ever never played in front of fans at USC during this pandemic season.

Mobley did score 10 points with eight rebounds in his final game at Galen Center, and he can still be the first to lead the Trojans to a regular season Pac-12 title since 1985 — with a win against UCLA on Saturday and a little help from Oregon State on Sunday.

USC’s 2021 football schedule provides reasons for hope that the Trojans could again be serious contenders for a Pac-12 championship.

But after USC’s brutal mountain road trip, not even a perfect effort against their crosstown rivals can seal their fate. Oregon, which currently holds the conference lead, is peaking at the right time, with 10 wins in its last 11 games and four in a row since losing to USC nine days ago.

The Trojans were firing on all cylinders that day, exploding out of the gate to open on a statement-making 15-0 run. They wound up beating the Ducks 72-58 in their only meeting of the season.

On Wednesday, with their first losing streak behind them, USC tried to make a similar statement against Stanford.

Whether it matters for their dwindling title chances, won’t be known until Sunday.


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