Southern California can score its most significant win of the season Sunday at home in Los Angeles when it puts its four-game winning streak on the line against No. 19 Auburn.
The Tigers (9-1) tip off their two-game, West Coast road swing coming off the most trying stretch of their season to date. Auburn followed its first loss, 82-73 on Dec. 10, with a hotly contested showdown Wednesday against Georgia State.
Auburn needed a 44-33, second-half rally to down the Panthers, 72-64.
“We have got to improve in order to beat the teams that are left on our schedule,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said in his postgame press conference on Wednesday. “The last three games we have played (against Memphis and Georgia State, and a 93-66 win over Colgate on Dec. 2), we have not played well enough to be able to continue to win.”
Auburn visits USC and the Trojans’ Pac-12 Conference counterpart, Washington, for a pair of road games along the Pacific before the Tigers open Southeastern Conference play Dec. 28 against Florida.
Though Pearl lamented Auburn’s level of play in the Georgia State comeback, the Tigers showed off their potential depth in the win. Jaylin Williams — the team’s fourth-leading scorer for the season at 9.3 points per game — went for 20 points against the Panthers.
Wendell Green Jr., Johni Broome and sixth-man spark plug K.D. Johnson are Auburn’s top three scorers for the campaign at 13.8, 11.1 and 10.9 points per game.
Reserve Tre Donaldson came in for six points, and more importantly, three steals to help guide Auburn to victory on Wednesday.
“(Pearl) gave me the opportunity and I took the most of my opportunity and helped lead my team to a win,” Donaldson said in the postgame media availability.
Auburn demonstrating its depth parallels Sunday’s opponent, USC.
The Trojans (8-3) won their fourth straight on Wednesday, 88-78 against Long Beach State, thanks to 20 points apiece from Reese Dixon-Waters and Tre White to pace five scorers in double-figures.
Dixon-Waters shot 8 of 12 off the bench, while White set a career scoring high for a second consecutive game. He finished with 15 points in USC’s 64-50 win over Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 7.
“(White is) a very impressive young man. He’s very talented,” USC coach Andy Enfield said following the defeat of Cal State Fullerton. “He does a lot of really good things. He’s developing as a player.”
White’s maturation into a more prominent role, playing on the starting perimeter rotation with veterans Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson, could prove central to USC’s NCAA Tournament aspirations this season.
White delivered one of his four double-figure-scoring performances of the season in the Trojans’ 73-66 overtime loss to Auburn’s SEC counterpart Tennessee Nov. 24 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
White notched 11 points as one of just two Trojans to score in double-figures that game. Ellis was the other with 21 points.
After falling short against both Tennessee and currently ranked Wisconsin during the Battle 4 Atlantis, Sunday’s home game marks USC’s first chance to record a win over a Top 25 opponent.
–Field Level Media