USC beats Santa Barbara 98-87, snaps Gauchos’ 7-game streak
LOS ANGELES (AP) Chimezie Metu is known for his rim-rattling dunks. He showed some variety on his way to a career-high 31 points, hitting three 3-pointers.
”I’ve been working on it all summer,” he said of his long-range shooting. ”I’m still a dunker at heart.”
Metu also went 6 of 8 from the free throw line in leading Southern California to a 98-87 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Sunday night, snapping the Gauchos’ seven-game winning streak.
Elijah Stewart added 19 points, Jonah Mathews had 16 points and Nick Rakocevic had 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for the Trojans (6-3) in their highest scoring game of the season. Jordan McLaughlin had a career-high 19 assists that tied the Pac-12 single-game record and broke his own school record of 16 set last year.
”I was just trying to break the record,” said McLaughlin, who wasn’t aware of the mark until the public address announcer mentioned it.
Gabe Vincent and Max Heidegger scored 17 points each for the Gauchos (8-3), who fell to 1-14 in the all-time series. Leland King II added 15 points.
USC hit five 3-pointers in the first seven minutes of the second half and opened a 73-48 lead, its largest of the game. Metu had consecutive long-range baskets.
”He worked on it this summer,” McLaughlin said, explaining the team’s trust in Metu’s 3-point shooting. ”We want him taking good ones, which he has.”
McLaughlin had 11 of his 19 assists in the second half, when the Trojans got outscored 54-46.
”I knew what to look for,” he said. ”Coach showed how they played defense and I’ve been in the system for four years.”
The Gauchos put together a 21-6 spurt, including eight by Vincent, to close to 79-69. But they never got closer.
Metu took over from there, scoring eight of USC’s next 10 points and extending the Trojans’ lead to 89-73. He had four dunks in the second half, two of them coming back-to-back during his offensive spurt. The junior forward had 20 points in the second half.
McLaughlin’s 3-pointer pushed USC’s lead to 98-78.
”Those are two NBA players we played,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said of Metu and McLaughlin.
Metu went out with a laceration near his right eye that required three stitches with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
The Gauchos cut their deficit to 38-30 before the Trojans closed the half on a 14-3 run to lead 52-33 at the break. Stewart and Mathews scored five points each and Rakocevic added four.
”The last four minutes of the first half is what did us in,” Pasternack said.
BENNIE’S BAD FOOT
USC starting forward Bennie Boatwright, who averages 15.4 points, missed his first game of the season because of pain in his right foot from a plantar wart.
Former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was on hand to watch his son, Maxwell, a junior forward for the Gauchos. The younger Kupchak had one rebound, one block, one steal and two fouls in 3 minutes.
UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos’ longest winning streak since 2015-16 ended in their first game after a weeklong break. Still, they are in the midst of a major turnaround under Pasternack. Last season, the Gauchos were 1-9 through their first 10 games and finished with a 6-22 mark, which helped cost coach Bob Williams his job after 19 years. At 8-3, Pasternack is off to the best start of any first-year coach in school history.
USC: The Trojans have won two straight after losing three in a row. They beat a hot team in the Gauchos and did so in convincing fashion while in the midst of playing eight games in 18 days. They began the season with seven games in 34 days and went 4-3 in that stretch.
UC Santa Barbara: Hosts San Diego Christian on Tuesday.
USC: Hosts Princeton on Tuesday in the first of two potential matchups this season. The Tigers and USC both play in the same tournament in Hawaii at Christmas.
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