Southern California returns home to Los Angeles on Thursday after a trying road swing, hosting Pac-12 Conference cellar dweller California.
The Trojans (17-8, 9-5 Pac-12) suffered a dramatic setback to their NCAA Tournament aspirations with back-to-back losses at Oregon on Feb. 9, 78-60, and at Oregon State last Saturday, 61-58. The losses marked two of their lowest-scoring performances in conference play this season.
“We got good shots all night. We moved the ball,” USC coach Andy Enfield said following the loss at Oregon State via 247Sports. “It wasn’t like we were taking bad shots. We got pretty much what we wanted. You got to make more than one three, though. I think Boogie’s (Ellis’) seven threes, maybe six were pretty wide-open.”
With the disastrous road trip, USC fell to No. 64 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, and dropped from a game back of rival UCLA for first place in the conference to three games back and in fourth place.
Cal (3-22, 2-12) visits on Thursday riding a nine-game losing skid after it rallied to force overtime last Saturday against Arizona State but fell short in the extra frame, 70-62.
“We ran out of steam. We don’t have any depth, and everybody knows we don’t have depth,” Golden Bears coach Mark Fox said in his postgame press conference. “And so, everybody presses us. Ultimately, it shows.”
Cal’s lack of depth has been particularly of note recently with leading scorer Devin Askew, who averages 15.5 points per game, sidelined since Jan. 22. Askew scored 23 points in the Golden Bears’ last meeting with USC, a 66-51 loss in Berkeley, California, on Nov. 30.
Drew Peterson led the Trojans in that matchup with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Joshua Morgan added 14 points and blocked seven shots. Morgan has been sidelined since Feb. 2 with an ankle injury, but Vincent Iwuchukwu delivered a career-best performance filling in as the starting center with 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks at Oregon State.
The five-star recruit Iwuchukwu joined the USC lineup on Jan. 12 after recovering from cardiac arrest suffered in the summer.
–Field Level Media