Isaiah Mobley expected to play for USC men’s basketball vs. UCLA

USC forward Isaiah Mobley works to the basket against Pepperdine.
USC standout Isaiah Mobley is expected to play against UCLA on Saturday despite dealing with a broken nose.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A broken nose is not expected to sideline USC’s leading scorer for Saturday’s pivotal meeting with crosstown hoops rival UCLA.

Isaiah Mobley should be ready to rejoin USC’s lineup by then, coach Andy Enfield said Thursday, but how comfortable the Trojans captain will be upon returning for the crucial conference matchup remains to be seen.

Mobley, who missed Tuesday’s game, was fitted this week for a protective mask that’s expected to arrive Friday. As of Thursday’s practice, it was still unclear if Mobley would have to wear a mask at all.


If he does, there won’t be much time to get acquainted with it. Enfield said he didn’t believe Mobley had ever worn a mask before.

When it comes to sideline attire, USC men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield and UCLA coach Mick Cronin have different tastes and philosophies.

“I broke my nose, I never got it repaired,” Enfield said. “It’s one of those things where you just have to learn to play with the pain for a few days if the swelling goes down, and it doesn’t affect your vision.”

Mobley left last Saturday’s loss against Arizona with a bloodied nose with 12:56 remaining, only to return two minutes later. He played the rest of the game through the injury, but didn’t make another field goal, finishing 0 for 4 from the field.

USC almost lost its way in Mobley’s absence Tuesday, left to overcome a 13-point, second-half deficit to Pacific, a team that had won just three games since Thanksgiving.

“Without Isaiah, we lacked urgency,” point guard Ethan Anderson said.

In light of that brief brush with disaster, Enfield put the onus on the team’s top players to bounce back.

Mobley, who leads the Trojans in points (14.7), rebounds (8.5) and steals (0.9), is presumably the first name on that list.

Boogie Ellis scored 13 points as USC rallied in the second half to beat Pacific 74-68 and avoid an upset Tuesday at the Galen Center.

“You need your best players to step up and play well,” Enfield said. “They’re your best players for a reason. To perform consistently in big games, they have to play well to have a chance to win.”

That will likely ring true Saturday, too, when UCLA returns to a sold-out Galen Center. In each of the past two seasons, a top Trojans guard played hero, toppling UCLA with a breathtaking buzzer beater.

Mobley could be the one called on to don that cape Saturday. Whether that comes with a mask, too, is still to be determined.