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USC leans on veteran duo when hosting Mount St. Mary’s

USC concludes a four-game homestand to open the 2022-23 season on Friday, welcoming to Los Angeles a Mount St. Mary’s team playing the first of three games in a California road swing.

The Trojans (2-1) rallied from a sluggish offensive start on Tuesday to beat Vermont, 59-57. USC shot 19-of-53 from the floor and actually surrendered more made field goals (21) than it scored, but went 18-of-23 from the free-throw line to score a critical advantage.

Drew Peterson played a clutch all-around game with 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

“He started 1-7, and he wasn’t playing well in the first half. He ended up 6-14 (shooting from the floor),” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said in his postgame press conference. “He played great in the second half. We ran a lot of offense through him.”

The veteran Peterson and backcourt mate Boogie Ellis lead USC at 16 and 14.7 points per game through USC’s first three. Their continued guidance will be critical as the Trojans embark on the always-tough Battle 4 Atlantis next week in the Bahamas, tipping off Wednesday with USC playing BYU.

The field also includes reigning national champion Kansas.

First, the Trojans look to get past Mount St. Mary’s, which begins a five-day, three-game odyssey in California with Friday’s contest.

The Mountaineers (1-2) are coming off their first win of the campaign with a 60-38 rout of Division III McDaniel College on Tuesday.

Mount St. Mary’s offense runs through the perimeter tandem of Jalen Benjamin, who is averaging 19.7 points per game, and Dakota Leffew. Leffew is shooting 32 percent from 3-point range and scoring 13 points per game.

Malik Jefferson has posted nine points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Mountaineers.

“Malik’s played in a lot of basketball games, and to have a veteran come back like him, we actually need him to do more,” Mountaineers coach Dan Engelstad said on the Glenn Clark Radio Show on Oct. 31. “When he’s healthy, we know that he can. We need him to produce more from an offensive standpoint, we need him to clear the glass and we need him to be in great shape so we can keep him on the floor.

Mount St. Mary’s was without Engelstad in Tuesday’s win, the result of an illness, but he should be on the sideline for Friday’s contest.

–Field Level Media