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Boogie Ellis has a career night as USC buries Stanford with a flurry of threes

USC guard Boogie Ellis celebrates after making a three-pointer in the first half Saturday against Stanford.
USC guard Boogie Ellis celebrates after making a three-pointer in the first half of an 85-75 win over Stanford on Saturday night at Galen Center.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
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The red foam fingers sat propped on every seat of Galen Center’s lower bowl, each flashing three digits, as if to tempt fate. Few in the conference had been worse from three-point range than USC this season, while no Pac-12 team during its conference slate had been better from deep than Stanford.

It made for particularly bold pretext ahead of a must-win conference game for the Trojans, a team firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. But as it turned out, the foam fingers weren’t so much tempting fate as divining it in an 85-75 win for USC.

“We’re pretty good when we make shots,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

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Rarely had USC (19-8) been this good offensively. Just once in the past four seasons had the Trojans been this scorching hot from three-point range as they were Saturday. Even as Stanford (11-16) shot better than normal from deep, it couldn’t keep up with USC, which buried the Cardinal with a season-high 13 three-pointers, their most since January 2020.

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The night’s barrage began, oddly enough, with a botched attempt from behind the arc by Boogie Ellis. But as Stanford flew out to an early lead, USC’s point guard didn’t have much trouble shaking off his initial miss. Neither would the rest of the Trojans’ shooters.

USC hit nine of its next 14 from three — all before halftime. Five of the nine belonged to Ellis, who had never made more than six in a collegiate game. As USC dominated from deep, it barely mattered that it returned its defensive stalwart in the middle, Joshua Morgan, from injury.

Stanford had hung tight through that first half, in spite of the barrage, cutting USC’s lead to two with less than three minutes until halftime. That’s when Ellis really came alive.

The point guard hit one three, then on the ensuing fast break, he called for the heat check and fired off another, burying it to give USC the breathing room it needed.

USC guard Drew Peterson drives past Stanford forward Harrison Ingram during the second half Saturday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
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He’d finish with 33 points, setting a career high in scoring for the second time in a month. But he’d be prouder, he said, of his seven assists, which were also a career high.

Ellis was hardly the only Trojan firing confidently from long range Saturday. Building on his career night against California, Drew Peterson drained a trio of threes on his way to 21 points. Reese Dixon-Waters, returning from a four-game absence, added two from deep, both in the second half. Oziyah Sellers and Kobe Johnson each added one three-pointer of their own.

“We’re all threats,” Ellis said. “They gotta guard me, so I just tried to pick them apart a little bit.”

It was a particularly positive sign for a USC offense that has been prone to long lapses from the perimeter. The fact it came immediately after the Trojans sank a dozen three-pointers in the win over California made it especially noteworthy.

Those 12 threes would remain a season-high for all of two nights, when USC matched that total with more than a quarter of the game still left against Stanford.

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The display from deep would slow after the half, as Stanford cheated more than usual toward the three-point line, leaving the lane open for USC to drive. The Trojans would happily comply, taking what they could in the paint, while making 12 of 12 from the charity stripe.

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They would fire off just one last shot from behind the arc over the final 10 minutes. But Ellis would make that last one count, sending it soaring from the top of the key.

As it swished, the arena roared, waving its red foam fingers in triumph.

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