COLUMN: Following win, USC men’s basketball must keep fire alive

first_imgIt was early in the second half, and USC was ahead by double-digits when the chants started at the Galen Center.“Overrated,” they bellowed, softly at first but soon turning into a stadium-wide jeer aimed at No. 8 UCLA, which USC took down on Wednesday in front of a sold-out, raucous crowd of 10,258 people.But the crowd wasn’t done having fun. They chanted, “Thank you, Lonzo” when Bruins freshman phenom Lonzo Ball missed a pair of free throws that gave all fans free Chick-Fil-A. Then, with five minutes to play, the “overrated” chants started again, sandwiched in between a high-flying putback jam by junior guard Elijah Stewart and an and-one dunk by sophomore forward Chimezie Metu.And, for good measure, with the game out of reach in the final minutes, “Just like football” rained down, a gleeful reference to the 36-14 beatdown that USC’s football team put on UCLA in Pasadena last November.Take a moment to appreciate what happened on Wednesday night at the Galen Center. There it was, a crowd actually getting into a non-football USC sport, the most excited a basketball home crowd has been in some time.While it’s unlikely that the energy for future games will eclipse that of a matchup against a crosstown rival, USC has to hope that what occurred both on the court and in the stands against UCLA serves as a blueprint for the remainder of the season.“It was great,” Metu said about the sellout crowd. “I just wish it was like that every game.”“That,” as in the line for students to enter the arena wrapping around the stadium, the usually half-empty section of the stadium filling up an hour before tip-off, tickets for the game selling out a month beforehand, the parking lots around Galen Center displaying “FULL” signs and traffic on the nearby surface streets slowing to an absolute crawl.Inside, it was just as spectacular. USC beat UCLA for the sixth straight time in men’s basketball or football — four in a row men’s hoops — and the Trojan faithful rubbed it in as much as they could. The capacity crowd cheered and chanted without being prompted by DJ Mal-ski, who typically has to encourage fans to make noise.“This was as good an atmosphere as I’ve seen,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “It was just a great college basketball environment … This atmosphere was just sensational.”On the court, it was like the teams switched jerseys. The Bruins and their high-powered offense — that ranks third in the NCAA in scoring at 92.2 points per game — were held to just 76. The Trojans, who have struggled shooting the ball early in conference play, drilled nine 3-pointers in the first half alone en route to dropping 50 on the Bruins at halftime.It didn’t start out that well. USC trailed 8-0 right off the bat, looking jumpy and over-amped, while an emphatic follow jam by Ball had the crowd oohing and aahing. But after going down 20-10, it was like a light switch went off for the Trojans. There were steals and dunks, alley-oops and hustle plays and a whole lot of the net swishing from long distance.Like that, the game was tied, and then USC went ahead. Before you knew it, Stewart drilled a deep 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to put the Trojans up by double-digits, sending a dejected Bruins team to the locker room.By the end of the game, USC had sent UCLA into low-key panic mode. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bruins stayed in the locker room for nearly half an hour after the game, holding a lengthy team meeting.Maybe this UCLA team isn’t as good as everyone thought it would be (the Bruins also lost to Arizona last Saturday) when it was hyped as a national championship contender, and Ball — who scored 15 points but committed a whopping seven turnovers — still needs time to develop after being heralded as the next big thing. Perhaps he still is. And perhaps the Bruins simply had an off night.The Trojans can’t think about that, though. They have to take the momentum off this win against a top-10 opponent and hope that it translates to another win in Washington next week. Given their inconsistent conference play following a 13-0 start, this could potentially be a season-defining win that sparks a late-season push for a better Pac-12 and NCAA tournament seeding.And hopefully, went they return home on Feb. 9 to play Oregon State, the Galen Center will be just as energized as it was against UCLA. Both the team and the crowd — as the kids say — were absolutely “lit” on Wednesday. Now, it’s all about keeping the fuse burning.Eric He is a sophomore studying print and digital journalism. He is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, Grinding Gears, runs on Fridays.last_img read more

Magic cruise past Pelicans, close in on Heat in NBA playoff race

first_imgOrlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) goes up for a 3-pointer during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)ORLANDO, Florida — The Orlando Magic showed no mercy on an undermanned New Orleans team, routing the punchless Pelicans.Evan Fournier scored 22 points and Aaron Gordon had 20 as the Magic took advantage of the Pelicans playing without All-Star Anthony Davis and beat New Orleans 119-96 on Wednesday night for their third straight victory.ADVERTISEMENT Pelicans: Host Houston on Sunday.Magic: Play their fourth straight home game Friday against Memphis.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Ginebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup title “Overall, we’ve been pretty good lately,” Fournier said. “We’re locked in, pressuring the ball, being physical. It’s kind of becoming automatic now. We’ve really gotten better defensively.”Stanley Johnson led the Pelicans with 18 points. Fellow reserve Ian Clark had 17 and Frank Jackson was the only starter in double figures with 14. The Pelicans were outrebounded 65-49.Davis was with the Pelicans a month ago when they were routed 118-88 by Orlando.“For some reason, this is a terrible matchup for us,” Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry said. “Those are our two worst losses this year. It’s just one of those things where the matchups have not been good to us and we have had a tough time keeping them off the boards.”Davis left Orlando on Wednesday morning to return to New Orleans to be with his daughter who was ill.ADVERTISEMENT Ginebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup title Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award “His daughter is really sick,” Gentry said at the morning shootaround. “He went back to make sure everything is fine. It’s serious enough that he needed to go back there.”Orlando held a 22-point halftime lead and never let the advantage go below 15 in the second half. Payton hit a follow-shot layup to cut New Orleans deficit to 76-61 with 6:23 left in the third period and prompt a timeout by the Magic.After the timeout, Vucevic drained a wide-open 3-pointer and blocked two shots to ignite a 15-0 run that sealed it. New Orleans missed 11 straight shots and turned the ball over twice during the run. The Pelicans trailed 98-67 going into the fourth quarter.“It wasn’t anything I said (during the timeout), we just played a lot better defensively,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “I think our defense is more consistent every night.”The game was all but decided at halftime when Orlando took a 68-46 lead. The Magic didn’t have to work hard offensively, hitting seven of 15 3-pointers and overpowering the Pelicans inside for layups or free throws.Vucevic had almost as many rebounds (14) as the Pelicans (18) in the first half when New Orleans shooting provided plenty of opportunities. The Pelicans started the game 1 for 14 from the field and didn’t get much better after that, finishing the half 18 of 52 (34.6 percent).TIP-INSPelicans: G E’Twaun Moore missed his seventh straight game with a quad contusion.Magic: Orlando’s starting five outscored New Orleans’ starters 78-43, including 50-19 in the first half. … Orlando had two, potential four-point plays in the first half. Ross missed his free throw in the first period, but Fournier converted his in the second period. … Orlando had 10 blocks, one shy of its season high.UP NEXT MOST READ Will you be the first P16 Billion Powerball jackpot winner from the Philippines? Terrence Ross had 19 points and Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Magic, who had little trouble finding shots inside or outside against the defenseless Pelicans. Orlando is chasing Miami for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.“We know we have a chance to play our way into the playoffs,” Gordon said. “We have some really talented guys on the defensive end and it’s all starting to come together.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGolden State Warriors sign Lee to multiyear contract, bring back ChrissSPORTSCoronation night?SPORTSThirdy Ravena gets‍‍‍ offers from Asia, Australian ball clubsDefense was all the Magic players wanted to talk about. They limited New Orleans to 37.3 percent shooting and completely eliminated Pelican point guard Elfrid Payton, who was on a roll coming into the game.Payton, who had triple-doubles in five straight games, finished with seven points, two assists and three rebounds. The only other NBA players with a triple-double in five straight games are Russell Westbrook (four times), Oscar Robertson (three), Wilt Chamberlain (two) and Michael Jordan (once). 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