Drew Peterson scores career-high 30 as USC ends skid with blowout win over California

California guard Joel Brown shoots as USC guard Drew Peterson defends.
California guard Joel Brown, left, shoots as USC guard Drew Peterson defends during the first half on Thursday at the Galen Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Its tournament hopes hung by a thread, squandered on an unnerving sweep through Oregon. Not even two weeks had passed since USC bested UCLA on this very court, its most triumphant moment of the season to date, but the tenor of the Trojans’ campaign had turned desperate in a flash on the road in Corvallis.

The margin for error was now razor thin as California, the league’s worst team by the widest of margins, caught USC coming off its only weekend sweep of the season. Fortunately for USC, it wouldn’t have many of its own errors to worry about Thursday night. It rolled to a 97-60 victory in which it dominated from start to finish, barely batting an eye in the process.

“It was nice to see some shots go in,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Last week we didn’t see too many.”


A smooth, blowout win, though, would by no means erase the problems that have previously plagued them. The defense still missed Joshua Morgan, its injured defensive stalwart at center. The offense was still the same group prone to the same lapses, despite the fact it scored a season-high 97 points and shot 59% from the floor.

Plus, this was California, after all, a team with only three victories in 25 tries and just one since the new year. The Bears had lost their last nine by an average of more than 17 points per game, limping their way to the end of a lost season.

For USC, there were several chances still to save its own season. That final postseason push began in earnest Thursday, but will really ramp up a week from now, as the Trojans head on their Rocky Mountain trip, in dire need of wins at Colorado and Utah, both of whom they handled at home.

Freshman Vince Iwuchukwu set career highs with 19 points and seven rebounds and added three blocks, but USC lost 61-58 at Oregon State on Saturday.

Feb. 11, 2023

None of USC’s final games this regular season are likely to play out so seamlessly as this one. What opened with a palate-cleansing, 13-0 USC run quickly turned into a cathartic beatdown of the Bears, who didn’t score for the game’s first five minutes. .

Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis both brushed off quiet performances in Corvallis, coming alive to combine for 52 points, which, at the time they were subbed out of the game, would’ve been enough to beat Cal on its own.

Peterson was especially stellar, scoring 11 points in the first 11 minutes, matching his total from each of his past three performances midway through Thursday’s first half. He hit nine of 14 from the field and finished with 30 points, a career high, to go with seven rebounds and six assists.


Both will have to be at their best over the next two weeks as much tougher tests loom.

“We’re pushing towards the end,” Peterson said. “We know it’s no time to let up.”

USC’s postseason dreams remain intact but they’ll have to do more than just whip Stanford, its next opponent and the Pac-12’s worst team.

“We have a lot of basketball left,” Enfield said. “We don’t get too worried about the bracketologists or the NET rankings right now. We’re worried about improving as a team and controlling what we can control right now.”