Pac-12 counterparts on opposite trajectories meet Thursday in Los Angeles, where surging Southern California hosts sputtering Washington.
The Trojans (9-2, 3-1 Pac-12) won their fourth straight on Tuesday, rallying from a halftime deficit to beat UC Riverside, 67-62. The overtime victory came on the heels of a road sweep over the Arizona schools.
“It was a good win for us, given the circumstances (of) shooting 3-of-21 from the 3-point line again,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was very challenging when you can’t make shots. We’re fortunate to be 9-2.”
USC’s long-range shooting followed a 3-of-22 performance at Arizona State. The Trojans are shooting 33.3 percent from long range on the season, tied for No. 181 in the nation, and it’s an area of concern against a zone defense similar to what Washington runs.
However, USC has offset its inconsistent 3-point shooting with effective interior offense — paced by 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley’s 16.2 points per game on 59.8 percent shooting from inside the arc — and tenacious defense.
The Trojans rank No. 12 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com metrics, and are holding opponents to just 39.1 percent shooting inside the 3-point line. USC’s length with brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley clogging the paint, averaging 3.3 and 1.1 blocked shots per game, sets the tone.
Washington (1-9, 0-5), meanwhile, comes to the Galen Center on a six-game losing streak and struggling mightily to score. The Huskies are shooting 46.7 percent inside the 3-point arc and 26.7 behind it, the latter ranking No. 324 nationally.
Washington dropped an 84-78 decision at Cal on Saturday. The Golden Bears outscored the Huskies in the final stretch, 9-3.
The 78 points were Washington’s most on the season, but Cal was the fourth consecutive opponent to score at least 80 points against the Huskies.
“We have to now put it all together,” said Huskies head coach Mike Hopkins in his postgame press conference. “We put ourselves offensively in a good position. We got good balance from a lot of different people.
“We’ve got to defend,” Hopkins added. “We gave (up) 11 (3-pointers). That’s not who we are. That’s the most frustrating.”
Past Washington teams have flourished defensively, particularly in generating turnovers. Quade Green and Erik Stevenson have been active to that end, each averaging more than one steal per game.
But after ranking No. 73 or better in adjusted defensive efficiency in Hopkins’ first three seasons, the Huskies are out of the top 100 in 2020-21. Coupled with Washington’s inconsistency on offense, it has made for the most trying Huskies’ season since the 2016-17 team finished 9-22.
–Field Level Media