The lowdown: After raining threes in their victory over UCSB, the Trojans took a different track against San Diego, jumping out to the early lead on the strength of their play in the paint.
The biggest talking point of the first few minutes, however, was the knee injury to Bennie Boatright, who looked to extend USC’s 4-0 when he was fouled under the basket. Down on the floor for several minutes, Boatwright had to be helped off by teammates and sat on the sideline with ice on his knee for the rest of the first half.
That first half included a strong shooting night from the Trojans, who were 57.6 percent from the field despite hitting just one of seven three-point attempts.
Elijah Stewart supplied an early highlight, blocking a three-point shot from from Toreros right into the hands of Jordan McLaughlin. The point guard spotted Stewart already down the court and lobbed the ball over to him for an easy dunk.
USD did not lie down and let USC take it to them though. On multiple occasions the Trojans extended their advantage to nine points only for a Torero triple to trim it back again.
A flurry of scoring from USC ensured they would take a double-digit lead into the break.
A scoring drought for the Trojans in the second half was ended with an emphatic dunk from Chimezie Metu on an alley-oop.
From that point on, USC continued to build on their lead.
Midway through the half, Nick Rakocevic nabbed a steal then dished it to De’Anthony Melton for a fastbreak lay up to put the Trojans ahead, 55-38.
Just before the five-minute mark, McLaughlin’s first three of the night gave the Trojans their largest lead at 64-46.
USD continued to fight, trimming the deficit to 12 with three and a half minutes to go, using a 9-3 run to stay in the game.
Ultimately, the Trojans held off their effort, capped by a driving slam dunk from Melton with just over a minute to play, extending USC’s lead to 19.
The takeaway: Win No. 7 moves the Trojans closer to matching the season-opening winning streak of the 2000-01 Elite 8 squad of eight wins to start the year.
USC was in control from the start, though the Toreros never let the game get out of hand.
With Metu putting in a double-double performance, Andy Enfield can be buoyed by yet another sign of his progress this season. Meanwhile, freshman De’Anthony Melton offered his own positives to continue his hot start to his USC career, adding 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The big, and unfortunate, takeaway from the contest on Wednesday night was a less positive one, however. Boatwright’s injury wasn’t a problem for the Trojans against USD, but his status going forward will be closely watched.
Player of the game: Chimezie Metu, led USC with 19 points and 13 rebounds with a steal and a block.
Stat of the game: USC outrebounded USD 44-28.
Next on tap: The Trojans head back to LA, but not the Galen Center, taking on BYU at the Staples Center on Saturday Dec. 3.