Stewart scores 26, USC beats Pepperdine 93-67 (Dec 11, 2016)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Elijah Stewart isn’t sure why USC isn’t gaining much national recognition, but the Trojans’ guard had plenty of highlight-reel worthy shots, blocks and crowd-pleasing plays on Sunday night.

Stewart scored 26 points and added seven 3-pointers and a career-tying four blocks in USC’s 93-67 win over Pepperdine. The Trojans set a school single-game record with 14 blocks and improved to 9-0.

It’s Trojans’ best start since they went 16-0 in 1971.

USC still is unranked in the polls, despite five teams in the rankings owning two losses. Asked if he feels the Trojans get enough recognition, Stewart said: ”No. Not at all. We were supposed to be last last year in the Pac-(12), and I think they picked us kind of last this year. Like I said at Pac-12 media day, if you could tell the future, you’d probably work for the government.”

USC actually was predicted to finish seventh this season in the conference’s media poll.

Jeremy Major led Pepperdine (4-6) with 19 points and Chris Reyes added 13. Pepperdine shot just 38.2 percent from the field.

Jordan McLaughlin added 18 points for USC and made all seven of his shots, Chimezie Metu scored 11 and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Nick Rakocevic and Shaqquan Aaron added 13 apiece for the Trojans. Rakocevic had a career high in points and rebounds (nine).

USC ran out to an 11-2 lead and never looked back. The Trojans led 48-30 at halftime after shooting 53.3 percent from the field.

The Waves have lost five consecutive games.

”Finals. (Let’s) get to finals and clear our heads a little bit,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. ”We’ve got to see what we’re not doing because we’re just in a funk right now. Each player could do more, whether it’s play hard, take care of the ball or push the ball harder. We’ve got to do a better job competing defensively.”

BIG PICTURE

Pepperdine: The Waves are still trying to find their way without injured players Amadi Udenyi (Achilles), Kameron Edwards (jaw) and others. If the Waves hope to shake the non-conference losses before the West Coast Conference begins on Dec. 29 at Gonzaga.

USC: The Trojans could work their way into the national rankings and garner more publicity for their undefeated season, possibly leap-frogging several two-loss teams. USC’s winning ways in the preseason will be especially beneficial when the Pac-12 season begins Dec. 28 at Oregon State.

QUOTE OF THE GAME

”We respect it. The players and coaches at USC have a rich tradition in all sports here. The basketball team has been a little bit of a roller coaster the last five or six decades with great players, great coaches, great teams. We’re just trying to do our part to make the people that have been here before proud, and to say, `hey, they’re fun to watch.’

”We’ve had a lot of alumni reach out to us, a lot of former basketball players come to our games and send us emails and letters in the mail.”

— Andy Enfield on USC’s best start since 1971

CARRYING ON

This was the second game USC played without starter Bennie Boatwright, who is out six weeks with a knee injury. They were also without forward Charles Buggs, who sustained a leg injury in warmups that Enfield didn’t believe to be serious. Eight USC players accounted for all but eight minutes of the game. Walk-on Kurt Karis scored his first career points as he made a pair of free throws in playing four minutes.

UP NEXT

Pepperdine is just two games into a difficult six-game road stretch, but its next game isn’t until Dec. 20 at Louisiana. That’s followed by games at Montana, Gonzaga and Portland.

USC is in the middle of a three-game home stretch at the Galen Center, where it can extend its undefeated season with a win over Troy on Saturday and Cornell on Dec. 19.