Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic puts up a shot over Washington State center Valentine Izundu (45) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. Jovanovic had 20 points as to lead Southern Calif
Ted S. Warren
January 01, 2016

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) The USC Trojans struggled on the road last season, but coach Andy Enfield played down the fact that Southern California opened the Pac-12 Conference season with a road win Sunday night.

''We didn't win too many games (last season) at home, either,'' Enfield joked after the Trojans scored 54 points in the first half and cruised to a 90-77 victory over Washington State.

One year after a young USC squad finished last in the Pac-12 at 3-15 - including 0-9 on the road - the Trojans won their seventh straight game to improve to 12-2. USC led from the opening basket and three times went up by 25 before taking a 54-37 lead at the half.

''They played with much more energy and tempo than we did, and therefore they controlled the first half,'' WSU coach Ernie Kent said. ''It looked like a highlight reel out there.''

''Our players were ready to go,'' Enfield said. ''We got off to a good start defensively. That was the key to getting our offense and our transition going.''

Nikola Jovanovic, one of five Trojans who scored 11 or more points, led USC with team highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds. Jordan McLaughlin scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half.

''We're just an improved team now . (more) maturity and more skills,'' McLaughlin said.

USC's 90 points and 52.9-percent shooting were season highs against the Cougars. The 54 points in one half were a season high for USC and against Washington State.

''They (the Trojans) play with tremendous freedom and poise in their transition game,'' Kent said, ''and we knew that was the No. 1 thing we needed to stop, I don't think we did a very good job of it.''

Josh Hawkinson led Washington State (8-5, 0-1 Pac-12) with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Ike Iroegbu, the only other Cougar with more than nine points, scored 13.

Hawkinson and Kent said they were encouraged by WSU's improved energy and play in the second half. The Cougars pulled within 12 when Brett Boese hit a 3-pointer to narrow USC's lead to 87-75 with four minutes to go, but WSU's only other basket came on a last-second dunk by Hawkinson.

Hawkinson said the Trojans ''came out and they were more focused, more aggressive and pretty much just took us to it from the very beginning and set the tone that they sustained throughout the rest of the game.''

Kent added, ''I thought they were exceptional in terms of their confidence, their focus.''

Julian Jacobs scored 12 points for USC. Katin Reinhardt and Elijah Stewart both had 11 before a crowd of 2,314 at Beasley Coliseum.

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TIP-INS

USC: Point guard Julian Jacobs and forward Bennie Boatright started after being sidelined recently with a sore leg and back, respectively.

Washington State: The Cougars are 0-8 in conference openers since winning at Washington on Jan. 5, 2008.

SLAM TIME

USC's Elijah Stewart, coming off the bench for just the second time this season, scored nine unanswered points midway through the first half. Stewart's outburst included a 3-point play when he stole an outlet pass from Hawkinson at midcourt and slammed home a dunk, fouled by Hawkinson. Stewart hung from the rim while his feet grazed.

STREAK SNAPPED

The Trojans had lost 10 straight Pac-12 road games since beating Washington State on March 6, 2014.

UP NEXT

USC visits Washington on Sunday.

Washington State hosts No. 25 UCLA on Sunday.

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