LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern Cal coach Andy Enfield was sure his team stole one.
USC, despite shooting 37 percent from the field, defeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 70-51 on Monday night for its fifth consecutive win.
''We had open looks on 3s, we had open looks in the lane, we had open looks at the free throw line,'' Enfield said. ''We did not shoot the ball well from anywhere. That kind of shooting caught up to us in our two losses. Tonight, we played enough defense to withstand our erratic shooting and our offensive inefficiency.''
Jordan McLaughlin, who had 12 points and five assists, said the Trojans know they are going to need their defense to kick start their offense.
''Defense was huge,'' McLaughlin said. ''There are going to be nights when shots are not falling. It's the system we have. When we talk, when we communicate, when we move with the ball, the defense will spark things. We'll get a block. We'll get into transition. Get some easy baskets.''
The Trojans (10-2), who are off to their best start since opening the 2001-02 season with a 13-2 mark, have one more non-conference game Wednesday night against Lafayette before Pac-12 Conference play begins next month.
''We're trying to win as many games as we can going into conference,'' McLaughlin said. ''We've only lost two. A game like this really helps our confidence a lot. We know we can't take any team lightly.''
The only Trojan who wasn't struggling on the offensive end was Nikola Jovanovic, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds.
''He was really aggressive,'' Enfield said of Jovanovic. ''He got his hands on a lot of balls. He really rebounded well out of his area. He really dominated the lane area tonight.''
Carlos Anderson had 10 points and six rebounds and Jalen Henry added 10 points for SIU-Edwardsville (3-8), which had a two-game winning streak snapped.
''We turned the ball over too much,'' said SIU-Edwardsville coach Jon Harris. ''They're a solid basketball team, but I thought it was more us than them.''
Southern Cal harassed the physically overmatched Cougars squad into 19-of-67 shooting (28 percent) from the field. The Trojans blocked 10 shots, and forced SIUE into 19 turnovers. The Trojans took control by holding the Cougars to nine points over the final 11:10 of the first half, which included a scoreless stretch of nearly four minutes.
The Trojans outscored the ice-cold Cougars 29-9 during the stretch, taking a 39-21 lead on a 3-pointer by Elijah Stewart with 30 seconds left in the first half. The Cougars made just 9 of 37 from the field, which included having seven shots blocked by the Trojans in the opening 20 minutes.
Southern Cal shot just as poorly over the opening eight minutes, starting out 5 of 18, before heating up to make 10 of 19 during the deciding run.
SIU-Edwardsville could get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
The Trojans have two five-game winning streaks this season for the first time since the 2008-09 season when they finished 22-13.
SIU-Edwardsville: The Cougars were playing their first game off a nine-day break, their longest of the season, because of finals. SIU-Edwardsville's coach Jon Harris, in his first season at the helm, is the second-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I men's basketball at age 35.
Southern Cal: The Trojans played without junior guard Julian Jacobs, who has been bothered by tendonitis in his left Achilles since a December 13 game against Yale. Without Jacobs, ''Our pace is affected,'' said McLaughlin. ''It slows down.''
SIU-Edwardsville hosts Grand Canyon next Monday.
Southern Cal hosts Lafayette on Wednesday.