Southern California beats New Mexico 90-82, off to 3-0 start
LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12. Just three games into the season, the Trojans are clicking in ways they weren't the last two years.
Jordan McLaughlin scored 19 points, fellow guard Elijah Stewart added 18 and USC beat New Mexico 90-82 Saturday night for its first 3-0 start since 2000-01.
''The past two years it was sort of a nuisance coming to practice because we were so bad,'' said guard Julian Jacobs, who had 14 points and credits the turnaround to the ''talent level. Guys are older, we got a lot of experience under our belt.''
Freshmen Bennie Boatwright added 15 points and Chimezie Metu had eight points, five rebounds and five blocks for the Trojans, who won their first two games by double-digits. McLaughlin was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line and had four steals.
''He's playing much more under control and his shot selection is better,'' USC coach Andy Enfield said.
Samford transfer Tim Williams led the Lobos (3-1) with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Butler transfer Elijah Brown added 18 points and Obij Aget, their 7-foot-1 center from South Sudan, had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
''We just didn't bring that passion to the defensive end like we're used to. All five guys talking. All the guys engaged,'' Williams said. ''When they jumped out on us we even got more quiet instead of picking up the talk and trying to fight back.''
New Mexico trailed by 20 points when it rallied with a 30-15 run to close to 81-76 with under two minutes remaining. The Lobos hit five 3-pointers, including three by Cullen Neal, and Williams added 11 in the spurt.
''I thought we played eight good minutes (in the second half),'' Lobos coach Craig Neal said. ''We're not going to beat people if we let them score 90 points.''
The Trojans went 8 of 12 from the line down the stretch while the Lobos got consecutive 3-pointers from Brown and Anthony Mathis that left them trailing 87-82. Katin Reinhardt came up with a big block of Brown's attempted 3-pointer and the Lobos were called for traveling to end the threat.
''There was no flow to our offense. There was a lot of dribbling,'' Craig Neal said. ''We didn't do that in the first three games. But you can tell there was a lot of dribbling because of the assists that we had. When you have three perimeter players who played a lot of minutes who have zero assists you have problems.''
The Trojans stretched a 17-point halftime lead to 54-33 early in the second with six straight points. McLaughlin and Reinhardt hit back-to-back 3-pointers that made it 66-46.
Brown made three-consecutive 3-pointers midway through the half, but the Lobos still trailed 66-49. They shot 39 percent for the game.
USC made a season-high 12 3-pointers, with Stewart and Boatwright hitting four each.
The game was tied 12-all in the opening minutes when the Trojans launched a 20-8 run that produced their first double-digit lead, 32-20. Five different players scored, including Stewart with two 3-pointers and McLaughlin with five points.
''We just couldn't put the ball in the hole in the first half,'' Williams said. ''You're going to have games like that, but it has to start on the defensive end, and we didn't do that.''
New Mexico: The Lobos controlled the boards, 47-39. ... They played USC for the fourth time in five seasons and fell to 6-7 all-time in the series.
USC: The Trojans had 11 blocks in the game, led by Metu. ''His shot-blocking ability is as good as I've seen, especially for a freshman,'' Enfield said. ''That's what we were missing last season. ... McLaughlin was called for an intentional foul on Brown in the second half.
In USC's first three games, McLaughlin, Stewart and Jacobs have provided the bulk of the Trojans' scoring. They combined to average 53 points in the team's first two wins and all three were in double figures against the Lobos. The trio combined for 12 assists and six turnovers.
New Mexico: Hosts Nicholls State on Wednesday.
USC: Hosts Cal State Northridge on Monday