Gharib: Trojans Show Staying Power to Make Run in March

The bounce-back win over UCLA on Saturday salvaged USC's seed and proved doubters wrong

Posted on March 9, 2021

  By Anthony Gharib, SuperWest Sports

With seconds left, USC found themselves in a familiar spot—their backs against the wall, pressure mounting and adversity catching up to them.

Before we could even imagine the scenarios, redshirt senior guard Tahj Eaddy shut us all up with a fading-three in the corner, reminiscent of the Jonah Mathews one last year.

It was chaotic, unbelievable, shocking, but most importantly, it made the difference between a No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and a No. 4. It also gives the Trojans much-needed confidence and momentum going into the ‘Madness’ that will ensue thereafter.

After a forgetful trip to the mountain region, where USC lost both games, the Trojans bounced back, just like they had multiple times before.

Against Stanford, it was seemingly over in five minutes. The Trojans suffocated them on the defensive end, and jumped all over the depleted Cardinal squad.

Against UCLA, I’ll be honest—the Bruins lost the game more than USC won it. The collapse from UCLA was more dramatic than the ending itself, even though the Trojans still deserved to win.

The Bruins were up eight with 5 minutes and three with a minute left, only to miss two huge free throws by sophomore guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. and junior guard Jules Bernard. Granted, USC probably should have been called for a travel by Eaddy the play before, and the jump ball possession arrow situation is one for the haters to debate forever.

But, just like before, the Trojans kept fighting and throwing jabs and working to come back. Freshman forward Evan Mobley showed up.

Even though his numbers weren’t eye-catching, with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks, the freshman was outstanding, and clearly the best player on the court. He seemed to be more aggressive after a series of poor shooting games.

And it’s time redshirt senior forward Chevez Goodwin receives some praise. The bruising, hard-nosed forward has been wreaking havoc throughout the season. In a game where sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley was in foul trouble, Goodwin put up 12 points, only missing one shot.

USC’s Drew Peterson | Mark J. Terrill/AP

Junior guard Drew Peterson and sophomore guard Ethan Anderson played enormous minutes toward the ending, showing their experience in college basketball can help this team late. Peterson hit two huge threes to crawl back in the game, and Anderson made the huge pass to Eaddy for the three.

They showed they have the formula to extend past the first weekend in March.

Even though the free-throw and three-point shooting were abysmal, it seems like this squad has found a way to work around it.

Whatever the outcome of the Pac-12 tournament, the Trojans have a clear shot to reach the Sweet Sixteen in March Madness. A net rating of 16 going into Sunday may lead to a likely five seed, depending on how they do in the Pac-12 tournament.

However, USC is riding a high that can carry them through the next week.

Of course, there will be challenges. A possible second-round matchup against USC’s kryptonite —Colorado—makes me nervous, but you know what they say: third times the charm. And when the stakes are highest, this squad shows up more often than not.

usc logoEven after a tough last two weeks (and a column from me preaching that we had been fooled), the Trojans answered back, showing why they’re not a joke.

—More from Anthony Gharib—