Men’s basketball splits Washington road trip

Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu led the Trojans in scoring both games of the road trip, posting 27 points against WSU and 10 against UW. (Sarah Ko / Daily Trojan)

After winning its previous five contests, the USC men’s basketball team traveled to the Pacific Northwest to open up Pac-12 play against the Washington State Cougars and the Washington Huskies this weekend.

The Trojans first travelled to Pullman, Wash., where they earned their 12th win of the season in a 65-56 win over the Cougars Thursday. USC’s offensive potential was on full display as it made over 50% of its shots for just the second time this season. Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu led the Trojans in scoring with 27 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds.

Despite its performance on offense, USC still had its share of issues. The Trojans gave up 20 offensive rebounds to WSU while also surrendering 20 turnovers on the night. However, thanks to a 12-point advantage in the paint and a strong defensive effort, USC led most of the game and held WSU below 27% shooting.

Junior guard Isaac Bonton led the Cougars in scoring with 18 points. Washington State played a clean game overall with only six turnovers but failed to capitalize on USC’s miscues.

“We played great defense and held them to 27% from the field,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “We challenged a lot of shots and I thought our guards played outstanding defense. Our bigs were able to help a few times and make them take tougher shots as well.”

Three days later, the Trojans faced off against the Huskies at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle. USC last took on the Huskies in the second round of the 2019 Pac-12 tournament, where Enfield’s squad lost in the final seconds, 78-75.

Washington was previously ranked this season, but has since fallen after a pair of losses to Houston and UCLA. Sunday night, the Huskies got back on track, trouncing the Trojans to the tune of a 72-40 blowout victory. 

The loss was USC’s worst of the season and dropped its record to 12-3. USC did not lead for a single second of the game. 

“It’s about as poorly as you can play,” Enfield said. “I take the blame for that. We were here for three days and we were prepared for what we wanted to do, we just didn’t get it done … We couldn’t make up some of the stuff that happened tonight.”

USC committed 21 turnovers and made less than 50% of its free throws. USC entered the game having amassed a 48% shooting clip over its previous six games, but the Huskies brought in a good game plan and held the Trojans to an abysmal 20% from the field. . 

For Enfield, who is looking to take USC back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017, it was a frustrating night.

“We missed so many easy shots in the first half and it kind of snowballed,” Enfield said. “We lost our confidence a little bit, and then we ended up turning it over and missing easy shots … so we weren’t able to keep the game close enough to regroup.”

Unlike the Trojans, the Huskies shot a solid 46% from the field and also dominated the blocks category with 12 to USC’s one.

“Washington played very well,” Enfield said. “They had 12 blocked shots, their length affected us. But we have to do a better job. We have to play better.”

The Trojans hope to put the loss behind them as they travel back home to Los Angeles to prepare for a Saturday night road game against crosstown rival UCLA. The game tips off at 7 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion.

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