After long layoff, No. 7 USC faces Cal

NCAA Men's Basketball

No. 7 USC is scheduled to return from a 19-day layoff and will put its unbeaten record on the line in a Pac-12 Conference basketball game against California on Thursday night in Berkeley, Calif.

The Trojans (12-0; 2-0 Pac-12) have had three games cancelled or postponed — including Pac-12 contests against Arizona and Arizona State — while the program was paused to deal with COVID-19 issues following a 67-53 win over Georgia Tech in Phoenix on Dec. 18.

USC’s Andy Enfield hopes his team can pick up where they left off in a season that has surprised some — but not the coach — after losing standout Evan Mobley from last year’s squad that made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

“Our guys are accustomed to winning,” Enfield said. “We brought in (transfer) Boogie Ellis and four talented freshmen, and we already had a foundation. We had the toughness on the defensive end. It’s been fun to see us develop.”

Ellis, a San Diego native, played the last two seasons at Memphis. He led the way in the Georgia Tech game with 16 points.

The Trojans might have lost Evan Mobley to the NBA, but they’ve returned his brother, Isaiah, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, as he averages 15 points and 9.6 board per game.

The junior has five double-doubles in his last six games, including a 21-point, 13-rebound effort in a home win over Utah in the Trojans’ Pac-12 opener last month.

Including the triumph over Georgia Tech in Phoenix, USC has recorded half of its 12 wins away from home this season, including true road tests at Temple and Florida Gulf Coast in November, and at Washington State in a Pac-12 game last month.

USC also has won neutral-site matchups with St. Joseph’s and San Diego State in Anaheim.

In order to remain unbeaten, the Trojans will have to do something nobody has done against Cal (9-5; 2-1 Pac-12) since Nov. 9 — beat the Golden Bears on their home floor. Cal has won nine straight at home after an opening 80-67 loss to U.C. San Diego.

The Golden Bears have won five straight overall, including a 74-50 shellacking of visiting Arizona State in a Pac-12 game on Sunday.

Cal is also scheduled to host fifth-ranked UCLA on Saturday.

“They have elite talent,” Cal coach Mark Fox said of the Los Angeles schools. “The bridge we have to cross is everyone in their programs knows how to win and they’re used to winning. I’m not going to say it’s easier for them, but that’s really important once your team knows how to win. That’s what USC and UCLA both have.”

Cal’s top talent was on full display in the win over Arizona State last weekend, with Grant Anticevich recording his fifth double-double of the season (10 points, 10 rebounds), Charlotte transfer Jordan Shepherd scoring in double figures (16) for the 11th time this season, and Andre Kelly, the team’s top scorer (14.6), chipping in with 13 points.

The Trojans have beaten Cal in each of their last six meetings.

–Field Level Media

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