Washington State defeats USC, 75-72, behind big game from Jakimovski

The USC Trojans were defeated by the Washington State Cougars, despite leading for most of the game. With three games left in the regular season, USC's record falls to 11-17.

PULLMAN, Wash.– The Trojans won against their rivals in Westwood on Saturday night and then traveled to play against the No.19 Washington State. On Thursday night, Andy Enfield, retained the same starting five as before, led by their captain Boogie Ellis. During this season, Ellis is averaging 17.0 points per game this season for USC.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

USC continues to roll to start the game

The USC Trojans are coming off their best win of the season against UCLA, but this season has been full of surprises for the team. USC has displayed impressive performances in their last few games. Ellis has been demonstrating greater mobility in the last two games, while he recovers from his hamstring injury. Isaiah Collier underwent surgery on his right hand in early January, but has now returned to the court for the last few games. Enfield has demonstrated strong leadership of the team, and it appears that USC is under control as they head into the month of March.

During the first half, USC made an 8-2 run after a couple of defensive stops, and continued their success by leading for most of the time in the first half. They also went on a 12-2 run late in the first half. Collier was their leading scorer going 6 of 8 from the field with 14 points in the first half. USC had nine players score in the first half. Although rebounding has been an issue for the Trojans, Vincent Iwuchukwu came in and grabbed a team-leading three rebounds. Kobe Johnson made some excellent plays, moving without the ball and scoring six points on 3 of 4 from the field.

Ellis had a great performance at UCLA, but he struggled early in the first half. He shot 1 of 7 and scored the only three-pointer for his team in the first 20 minutes of the game. USC is facing some challenges in guarding the three-point line, as they allowed Washington State to shoot 5 of 10 in the first half. The Cougars were trailing by 39-35 at halftime, but Isaiah Watts led the team with 9 points and 2 rebounds. Andrej Jakimovski also contributed to the Cougars’ score with 8 points and 4 rebounds. USC had a lead of 12 points with 90 seconds left in the first half, but they allowed Washington State to close the half on an 8-0 run.

During the first half of the game, USC managed to score a total of 39 points, out of which 28 points were scored in the paint. Bronny James, who picked up two quick fouls, played for only a few minutes and scored two points, thanks to a nice shot off the dribble. Oziyah Sellers, who hadn’t scored in his last four games, made a surprise appearance in the game and scored four easy points off the bench.

Inconsistency hurts the Trojans in the second half

Iwuchukwu took advantage of an opportunity in the beginning of the second half, going on a great run on both sides of the ball. Jakimovski’s mother watched him play for the first time in college and he put on a show for her in the second half. He scored eight points in the first half and was making shots from beyond the arc. Collier had a hot start early on but cooled off in the second half, but later picked up his play. USC’s Morgan and James both had four fouls each midway through the second half, so they had limited minutes in the game.

The Trojans had a two-point lead with just under three minutes left, and Watts hit a three to give himself a career-high five made three-pointers in the game and 18 points, which is also his career high. Ellis had an opportunity to take the lead while trailing 70-69 but threw the ball away, and Jaylen Wells made a three-pointer in front of his bench to give the Cougars a 73-69 lead with 1:16 to go. Jakimovski shot a desperation shot with 37.5 seconds remaining, and USC could not grab the defensive rebound, so Ellis fouled, allowing two made free throws for Washington State.

Enfield was previously 0-16 playing true road games against top 25 teams before Thursday’s loss. The Trojans had no timeouts late in the game when Wells missed the free throw to make it a two-possession game. The Cougars led 75-72 as Ellis held the ball and shot a 30-footer and missed. The offensive rebound landed in Johnson’s hands, and he missed the game-tying three at the buzzer. USC falls to 11-17 this season, while the Cougars move to 22-7.

The Trojans led by as much as 12 points in the game but could not hold on for a much-needed win on the road. Collier finished with 24 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the field, while Johnson and Iwuchukwu were the only other players to score in double figures. Ellis was 2 for 10 from the field and only scored five points in the loss for the Cougars. USC had 11 steals in the game, as they were able to force 14 turnovers.

Moving on to the next for the Trojans

The USC Trojans have just three games left before the start of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, which is set to take place in two weeks. The Trojans will face a tough challenge when they play Washington on Saturday afternoon, before traveling back to their home court to host Arizona State on Thursday, followed by Arizona on Saturday night for the season finale. There’s a possibility for the Trojans to win their remaining three games, considering the way they have been playing lately. However, their recent loss has shown that they need to work on a few areas in order to achieve this.

Coach Enfield tried to keep his team in the game, but unfortunately, he couldn’t find the right combination of players to sustain the lead late in the game. After their latest tough loss, the Trojans need to improve their shooting consistency and rebounding skills. They gave away too many opportunities to their opponents, with Iwuchukwu being the leading rebounder with only five boards in the loss. USC only made 2 of 10 three-pointers in the game, while Washington State had 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.

The Trojans have a talented freshman on their team who has shown some impressive performances, but he cannot carry the team by himself. Without Ellis being able to score, it makes it difficult for the Trojans to compete with any team. Therefore, the Trojans need to focus on teamwork and improving their overall performance to finish the season on a high note.