More than eight months ago, star USC forward Bennie Boatwright suffered a serious left patella knee injury. In his first action since February, Boatwright scored 16 points on five-of-seven shooting and grabbed four boards to lead USC’s dominating 95-59 victory over MAAC conference foe Stetson (DeLand, Fl).
Junior forward Nick Rakocevic stuffed the stat sheet for USC with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman sensation Kevin Porter Jr. added 12 points. USC head coach Andy Enfield said, “I thought our team played well defensively, especially in the second half. We went on a run. On offense, we shared the basketball.” Boatwright added, “My teammates were finding me.”
Stetson 6-4 guard Christiaan Jones led the Hatters with 11 points. Sophomore forward Abayomi Iyiola contributed eight points and eight rebounds for the Hatters. Stetson grabbed six more offensive rebounds than USC, just about the only statistical category the Hatters competed in.
USC demolished Stetson in field goal percentage, outshooting the Hatters 56.3 percent to 31.2 percent. The Trojans outrebounded Stetson 47-38 and forced 11 turnovers. USC lead a whopping 30 to 7 with just under eight minutes left in the first period and didn’t look back. “Coming into the game we wanted to start off fast and that’s what we did,” Porter Jr. said.
With 8:30 remaining in the second half, Porter Jr. used a hesitation dribble to freeze the Stetson defender, crossed over and dunked with one-hand to ignite the Galen Center crowd. USC led 74-42 at that juncture and continued adding to their lead. The Trojans raced out to a 6-0 start, despite full-court man-to-man pressure from the Stetson defense. Porter Jr. hobbled off the floor and into the locker room nearly three minutes into the game, but would return another three minutes after.
To open the second half scoring, Porter Jr. shifted the ball behind him, stepped back and nailed a mid-range jumper. “I told him every day, ‘showtime,’ that’s all it is,” Boatwright said of watching Porter Jr. while he was out the first two games with the knee injury.
Two possessions later, a Stetson miss broke the Trojans’ fastbreak offense wide open. Porter Jr. drew defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaqquan Aaron who flushed it down with one hand. Stetson responded with a burst of their own, scoring three straight buckets to cut the USC lead to 14 and force an Enfield timeout.
USC travels to Kansas City for a matchup with undefeated Texas Tech (3-0) next up, led by sophomore guard Jarrett Culver (16.3 PPG). After their trip to Missouri, USC returns home for a three-game stint at the Galen Center against Cal State Bakersfield, Long Beach State, and No. 6 Nevada.
Wednesday night was also a big night for the Trojans on the recruiting trail. USC added 6-10 power forward Isaiah Mobley (No. 14 overall recruit via ESPN) to an already loaded recruiting class. “Isaiah Mobley can play with power and also great finesse and can fill up a stat sheet quickly,” Enfield said.
Mobley joins Chino Hills product Onyeka Okongwu, Santa Margarita Catholic’s Max Agbonkpolo and point guard Kyle Sturdivant to form the nation’s top 2019 recruiting class.
“As we continue to lose players after graduation and early to the NBA, we expect this recruiting class to have an immediate impact on the success of our team next season,” Enfield said. The sixth-year USC head coach added, “Our 2019 recruiting class will bring a combination of skill, size, and athleticism to our program.”