USC beats Utah 74-58 behind Metu and Usher
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Chimezie Metu, despite being listed in documents produced by the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, found a respite on the court and shut out the noise.
”When I’m on the court, nothing else matters. I was just out there playing. I wasn’t paying attention to anything anybody else was saying,” said Metu, who scored 14 points to lead Southern California to a 74-58 win over Utah on Saturday.
Metu acknowledged extra conversations with compliance officers and the existence of the Yahoo! Sports report that named him as receiving impermissible benefits, but said, ”I’m not going to lose any focus at all. I didn’t do anything wrong. Nobody in my family did anything wrong. … For me, there was never a doubt I’d play.”
Jordan Usher matched his career high with 14 points and the Trojans (21-9, 12-5 Pac-12 Conference) bolstered their case for an NCAA Tournament bid with their fourth straight win.
”I knew someone needed to step up,” said Usher, who had four 3-pointers. ”I always try and stay ready. … Today was just my day.”
After the Utes battled back to 55-49, Elijah Stewart made back-to-back dunks to spark a 16-0 run to clinch the game. Stewart finished with 10 points.
”I don’t want to take any of the credit away from USC. They made some big-time shots in the first half and the six open shots they missed, they got rebounds and scored 12 points on them so it was a little bit of a perfect storm for us,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. ”I’m just proud our guys didn’t fold our tents in the first half and fought back.”
In the midst of the run, Krystkowiak got a technical foul with 7:27 to go and had to be restrained by his assistants from chasing the officials.
David Collette paced Utah (18-10, 10-7) with 14 points as the Utes saw their five-game win streak snapped.
USC held the Utes to 3-of-15 shooting to start the game and frustration led to mistakes. Collette got a flagrant-1 foul with 7:12 left in the first half for an excessive push.
The aggressive Trojans took advantage of weak passes and surged to a 36-19 lead after a dunk by Usher and Shaqquan Aaron’s 3-pointer.
USC: The Trojans swept the Utes and now have a firm hold on second place in the Pac-12. Most prognosticators have USC firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament but this win will probably push them forward for an at-large bid.
Utah: The Utes had a chance to make a big statement and win their sixth straight game as they’ve been laying their best basketball of the season. Committing 15 turnovers and shooting 40.7 percent from the field doomed their streak and makes a deep Pac-12 Tournament run crucial to their post-season hopes.
Meta and junior forward Bennie Boatwright were both named in an explosive report published Friday by Yahoo! Sports.
USC athletic director Lynn Swann released a statement Saturday, stating, ”USC’s Office of Athletic Compliance launched an immediate investigation to determine the eligibility of Chimezie Metu, who was among those noted in a media report about payments by agents to college basketball players or their family members. Based on the available documents and a number of interviews, we determined that Chimezie is eligible to play in today’s game at Utah. If additional information becomes available, we will act accordingly.”
The Utah student section had signs such as ”Need Money? Metu! (Me too)” and chanted, ”Payroll! Payroll!” whenever he had the ball or returned to the bench.
USC also announced that it will also look into the eligibility of Boatwright.
No current Utes were named in the documents, but former Ute and current Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma was listed as having received a payment.
”I was disappointed about seeing the drum-and-feather (Utah’s logo) on ESPN. That pisses me off because there’s nothing NCAA-wise illegal within our program,” Krystkowiak said,
USC hosts UCLA in the regular-season finale next Saturday.
Utah hosts Colorado next Saturday.