No. 25 USC must take care of ball and Cal

USC coach Andy Enfield will ask his team to take better care of the ball when the 25th-ranked Trojans play host to Cal in a Pac-12 Conference game on Sunday at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.

USC (15-1, 2-1 in the Pac-12) is among the conference leaders in turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio, but the Trojans squandered too many possessions in their last two games against Oregon and Stanford.

The Trojans should fare better against Cal (10-5, 1-2), which forces the fewest turnovers in the Pac-12.

USC committed a season-high 17 turnovers in an 84-61 loss to Oregon on Dec. 30. They topped that total on Thursday, committing 18 turnovers in a 72-56 victory over Stanford.

“We were fortunate to win,” Enfield said.

USC is winning despite the absence of big man Bennie Boatwright, who missed the last nine games because of a sprained knee.

The Trojans initially said Boatwright was expected to be out six weeks, but that date is approaching and Enfield is saying there is no definitive timetable for Boatwright’s return.

Boatwright was averaging 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds before sustaining a Grade II sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in a game against San Diego on Nov. 30.

The Trojans have received a big lift from Chimezie Metu, who is averaging 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds this season after averaging 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds last season as a freshman.

“Chimezie has had a tremendous season so far,” Enfield said. “He’s developing into a tremendous player.”

Metu has recorded four double-doubles this season. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over Stanford.

“Being consistent just has to do with being confident,” Metu said. “This season, I’m more confident.”

Thanks in large part to Metu, the Trojans haven’t missed a beat without Boatwright.

“Without Bennie, I have had to be more of a leader and take on more of a scoring role,” Metu said. “Being out there without Bennie is different, but we’ve handled it well.”

Cal is coming off an 81-71 loss to UCLA. The Golden Bears have lost three of their last four games, all against ranked opponents. They lost to then-No. 12 Virginia on Dec. 21, then-No. 18 Arizona on Dec. 30 and No. 4 UCLA on Thursday.

Ivan Rabb had 17 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in the loss to UCLA, his third consecutive double-double and his seventh of the season.

Rabb became the first Cal player to grab 20 rebounds in a game since Leon Powe did it against USC on March 9, 2006.

“I’ve always been a good rebounder,” Rabb said after the UCLA game. “I just need to get in better shape. I was not willing to lie down today, and I just didn’t see enough fight in my team, so I wanted to lead by example.”

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin was encouraged by the play of Don Coleman. The sophomore guard came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, all in the second half.

“Coleman is a fighter,” Martin said. “He’s a competitor and a tremendous player.”