No. 16 Southern California continues its early-season homestand on Tuesday night when it hosts UC Irvine in Los Angeles.
The Trojans (2-0) followed an 82-69 season-opening defeat of Kansas State in Las Vegas on Nov. 6 with an 85-59 blowout of Cal State Bakersfield on Thursday.
USC never trailed in Thursday’s rout, which was the first of three home games for the Trojans before they travel to the San Diego area for a Thanksgiving weekend tournament also featuring Seton Hall, Oklahoma and Iowa.
Freshman guard Isaiah Collier scored 19 points against the Roadrunners after an 18-point debut vs. Kansas State. Boogie Ellis was one of five Trojans who scored in double figures on Thursday with 11 points after a 24-point, eight-rebound performance in the season opener. Ellis also had five assists and three steals against the Wildcats.
“Both of them complement each other very well, offensively and defensively,” USC coach Andy Enfield said of Collier and Ellis. “Boogie’s a better defender because he’s been in our system for a few years and Isaiah has to keep improving defensively but he’s very capable. They’re both exceptional offensive players. I think if you look at Isaiah’s strengths and Boogie’s when they have high assists and no turnovers, that means they played a good game.”
UC Irvine (1-1) makes the short trip north from Orange County, Calif., after scoring a 91-74 win over New Mexico State on Saturday.
Andre Henry led four Anteaters scoring in double figures with a career-high 19 points and shot 4-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I trust my work. Some nights might not be my night and that is okay,” Henry said after the win. “I got it going (Saturday) and I want to keep this momentum going.”
The balanced offensive output included an 18-point, 10-rebound Devin Tillis double-double in just 21 minutes. Justin Hohn scored 14 points and Derin Saran added 10 points off the bench.
“In general, we showed some offensive improvement from our last game,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said after the Anteaters scored just 64 points in their season-opening, eight-point loss at San Jose State. “I am pleased with that. A lot of guys came in and contributed to that.
“I have confidence that we have guys that can perform at a high level. I think all of these guys believe that they have a role to make a difference for the team every night.”
The 91 points UC Irvine scored on Saturday were the most for an Anteaters team since also scoring 91 in a Feb. 23 loss at UC San Diego.
UC Irvine will try to replicate its offensive success against a USC defense giving up just 35.9 percent shooting.
The Trojans owe their strong defensive start in part to Joshua Morgan’s presence on the interior. The USC big man is averaging blocked shots on 11.5 percent of opponent possessions, per KenPom.com metrics.
On the perimeter, Collier and veteran Ellis have four and six steals, respectively, through the first two games of the campaign.
–Field Level Media
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