LOS ANGELES (AP) Hovering near the bubble for the NCAA Tournament after a four-game losing streak, USC came out focused early Wednesday night and rolled to an 87-64 victory over Washington State.
Trojans guard Jordan McLaughlin fell one rebound shy of a college triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
USC (22-8, 9-8 Pac-12 Conference) had three others score in double figures, Chimezie Metu (15 points and nine rebounds), Bennie Boatwright (14 points) and Jonah Matthews (12).
USC never trailed, led by 20 at the half and by as many as 29 after the break.
”We were focused,” said USC coach Andy Enfield. ”They know what’s at stake for our season.”
Washington State (13-16, 6-11) picked up 20 points off the bench from Robert Franks and another 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Josh Hawkinson. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Washington State.
The Cougars were frustrated by USC’s tight defense, particularly in the first half. The Trojans outscored the Cougars 17-0 off turnovers at the break.
”We had way too many turnovers (11) in the first half,” said Washington State coach Ernie Kent. ”We were gobbled up to start the game. They jumped out to a fast start and early lead, and by the time we settled in, they had the game.”
McLaughlin said the Trojans were keenly aware they could not afford another regular-season loss.
”We were all locked in,” McLaughlin said. ”Coach said we had a two-game season starting tonight. Now we have a one-game season.”
Washington State: Road wins has been fairly scarce for the Cougars this season, not that they would seem eager to travel. With the loss, they fell to 2-7 away from home.
USC: The Trojans’ four-game losing streak was a tad deceptive. The first three came against the Pac-12 Conference’s best teams, all ranked in the Top Ten – No.6 Oregon, No.3 UCLA and No.7 Arizona. The fourth and most damaging loss was against Arizona State (14-16).
McLaughlin actually had a chance at a 10th rebound late in the game, a miss ricocheting toward him before Mathews stepped in front to nab it. Daniel Hackett earned the only triple-double in USC history in 2007 against South Carolina.
Kent is planning on taking a relaxed approach prior to the Cougars’ final regular-season game at UCLA on Saturday.
”It’s about building back our energy and getting rested,” Kent said. ”I’m not going to ride them the next two days. I know who were are and what skills we bring to the table. Thursday will be a day devoted to academics. We will take Friday off and let our guys go the beach and get some sun.”
USC suffered a damaging loss at Arizona State in its previous game, losing a late 10-point lead. Enfield hoped it was a lesson learned.
”They have to realize every game, every possession, means something right now,” he said.
Washington State: The Cougars wrap up their conference schedule Saturday when they travel to UCLA to meet the third-ranked Bruins. UCLA won the first meeting 95-79.
USC: The Trojans host Washington Saturday in their final Pac-12 game. USC took the first matchup 82-74 in Seattle on Feb. 1.