Undefeated and No. 5-ranked USC looks to extend its best start since 2016-17 on Tuesday when it visits Pac-12 Conference counterpart Stanford.
The Trojans (13-0, 3-0 Pac-12) returned from a pause of more than two weeks due to COVID-19 cancellations and postponements with a 77-63 conference win at California on Thursday.
“There wasn’t much we could do but a lot of guys were watching film, trying to fix the stuff they could work on,” Isaiah Mobley told the Los Angeles Times following his 19-point, nine-rebound performance at Cal. “Of course, we were a little rusty, but we just kind of came together and we’re starting to catch a flow where everyone’s being aggressive, everyone’s showing up.”
Any rust USC may have experienced from the layoff may have dwindled by the second half, when the Trojans shot 18-of-28 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
USC picked up with the balanced scoring distribution that has been a hallmark of its unbeaten start. Drew Peterson complemented Mobley with 17 points and nine rebounds, Boogie Ellis added 14 and Chevez Goodwin finished with 12 points.
The same four Trojans are averaging in double-figures scoring for the season, led by Mobley’s 15.3 points per game to go with his 9.5 rebounds a game.
Along with its multifaceted offense, USC brings one of the nation’s top defenses through the season’s first two months into Stanford.
The Trojans are holding opponents to 27.5 percent shooting from 3-point range, No. 17 among all Division-I programs through games played Sunday.
At 40.7 percent, Cal was the first USC opponent this season to shoot better than 40 percent from the field against the Trojans.
Stanford (8-4, 1-1) aims to solve the USC defense while looking to return from a hiatus of almost three weeks. The Cardinal last played Dec. 23 in a 79-76 win over Liberty at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
Stanford’s subsequent games, starting with the Diamond Head Classic championship game against Vanderbilt, were either canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 protocol. Among the schedule reshuffling was Tuesday’s conference matchup with USC, originally slated for Saturday.
Although players impacted are unknown, a Cardinal spokesperson issued a statement to the Stanford Daily that the team could “not (meet) the minimum roster requirements as set by the Pac-12.”
Pac-12 COVID-19 protocol dictates rosters must have “at least seven scholarship players and one countable coach available to participate.”
Rising cases of COVID-19 prompted Stanford athletic brass to place an indefinite moratorium on fan attendance for indoor home games, aside from players’ family members.
The Cardinal will remain home at Maples Pavilion, however, a departure from much of last season when Santa Clara County restrictions forced the team to play home games an hour from campus in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“We were really, like, homeless for quite a few months,” Stanford leading scorer Jaiden Delaire told CTInsider.com.
USC is one of two remaining undefeated teams in college basketball. Stanford faced the other, reigning national champion Baylor, in an 86-48 loss Nov. 20.
The Cardinal are 5-2 since that loss, including a 72-69 defeat of Oregon on Delaire’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer on Dec. 12. Delaire is averaging 12.3 points per game, with Harrison Ingram adding 12.2 points per game.
–Field Level Media