No. 16 Southern California looks to continue its best start since 2016-17 when it hosts Long Beach State on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Trojans (9-0) continued their unbeaten start with an 80-68 defeat of Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday. Isaiah Mobley led the way with 23 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and five 3-pointers.
The Trojans shot 54.2 percent from the floor despite an 0-for-10 effort by Boogie Ellis, who had entered the game as the team’s leading scorer before being held without a point.
Ellis now ranks third on the Trojans with 12.4 points per game, behind Mobley (14.0) and Chevez Goodwin (12.6)
“When your leading scorer goes scoreless and you score 80, it’s OK,” USC coach Andy Enfield said in his postgame press conference.
“Anyone on our team can step up,” guard Drew Peterson added. “We have so many weapons. On any given night, someone can make plays.”
Scoring 44 points in the paint buoyed USC in the win, which included Joshua Morgan scoring all eight of his points on four dunks. Morgan faces his former team on Sunday, having transferred to USC from Long Beach in 2020.
Morgan averaged 8.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game for the 49ers in 2019-20.
Long Beach State (3-6) comes to L.A. between matchups against non-Division I programs Bethesda University and La Sierra. The 49ers routed Bethesda on Wednesday, 102-69, with Colin Slater scoring 21 points and Jordan Roberts adding 20.
Joe Murray is the 49ers’ top scorer with 16.3 points per game, followed by Slater (12.6) and Joe Hampton (11.9).
Hampton, a focal point of the 2021 Netflix documentary series “Last Chance U: Basketball” from his time at East Los Angeles College, scored in double figures in four of the 49ers’ first five games. He led Long Beach State to its last win over a Division I opponent, recording 22 points and 10 rebounds in a Nov. 24 defeat of Wright State.
Long Beach State has scored effectively at times, including the 85 points it registered against Wright State, but turnovers have vexed the 49ers. They had 19 turnovers in a 72-47 loss to San Diego State on Nov. 30.
“I feel like our turnovers are really in transition. So I feel like our turnovers are always coming to the halfcourt,” Murray told the Daily 49er following a 77-74 loss to Loyola Marymount on Dec. 4. “Mainly we might just have to be better with the ball just like coach says, ‘play on two feet.'”
USC’s defense has not generated much in the way of turnovers.
Instead, the Trojans excel at forcing missed shots. Opponents are making just 27.8 percent of 3-point attempts and 39.5 percent of 2-point attempts.
–Field Level Media