No. 5 Nevada brings the muscle to USC

Led by Jordan Caroline's dominant performance, the Wolf Pack goes on a second half tear to turn a close game into a runaway victory

USC Trojans basketball
Nevada forward Trey Porter (15) goes in for the dunk against USC during the Wolf Pack's 73-61 win against the Trojans on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

LOS ANGELES, CA-Fifth-ranked Nevada utilized a dominant 24-point, 11-rebound performance from forward Jordan Caroline to dominate USC at the Galen Center, coming away with a 73-61 win. Nevada (8-0) outscored USC 39-26 in the second half to stay unbeaten and seal their eighth win of the season.

Wolf Pack forward Tre’Shawn Thurman shot 60 percent from the field and scored 14 points. Senior twins Caleb (12 points) and Cody Martin (8 points) limited the Nevada offense to 11 turnovers. Junior guard Jazz Johnson shot 50 percent from three-pointn range and scored nine points off the bench for the Wolf Pack.

Nick Rakocevic, the nation’s sixth leading rebounder (11.7 rebounds per game), poured in 20 points and finished with 12 rebounds for the Trojans. USC redshirt senior guard Shaqquan Aaron added nine points. The Trojans starting backcourt of Jonah Mathews (7 points) and Derryck Thornton (10 points) combined for five assists.

“It was a tough game for us in the second half tonight,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “But, give Nevada credit. They came out in the second half and played exceptional basketball.”

Nevada’s Trey Porter scored his first two points of the afternoon to open up the second half scoring. Caroline scored in the paint and Caleb Martin splashed a 3-pointer to swing the momentum for the Wolf Pack and give Nevada a 41-35 lead two minutes into the second half.

“Defensively, we just had too many breakdowns,”Rakocevic said. “[Nevada] got open shots and we weren’t boxing out. It’s the little things.”

Porter backed down in the post, drop stepped and hammered it down with both hands. Usher responded with a reverse layup, but Caroline fired back with four straight points for Nevada. The Trojans found themselves down eight points (47-39) with 15:27 left in the game.

NCAA basketball at Galen Center
USC guard Shaqquan Aaron (0) launches a jumper over Nevada star Jordan Caroline (24) in the Trojans’ 73-61 defeat to the Wolf Pack on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

USC freshman Kevin Porter Jr. (14.0 points per game), who missed the Trojans’ last two games with a quad contusion, went through shootaround and warmpus. Porter checked in five minutes into the second half, but played a total of just four minutes before returning to the bench.

“In the first half we were playing well and had the lead,” Enfield said of Porter’s reduced playing time. “In the second half, we gave him a shot and he did fine. You could tell he wasn’t 100 percent. I didn’t want to risk further injury.”

Johnson and Thurman converted on two 3-pointers to extend Nevada’s lead. Johnson and Martin combined for five more quick points, putting Nevada ahead 61-44 with just over 11 minutes remaining. Rakocevic scored inside and Bennie Boatwright converted a three-point shot to bring USC within a dozen. USC then cut Nevada’s lead to 10 with 15 seconds remaining.   

“[These] early season games matter,” Enfield said. “We understand that. Hopefully we can become a better team throughout the season like we did last year.”

Caroline and Thurman ramped up their perimeter offense for the Wolf Pack, netting two straight 3-pointers late in the first period. Two possessions later, Thurman flew to the rim, caught a lob pass and flushed it down. Nevada cut the USC lead to one, trailing 35-34 at halftime.

“The first half was a really good sign that we could be one of the top teams and compete,” Rakocevic said.     

NCAA basketball
USC forward Jordan Usher (1) gets squeezed by a couple of Nevada defenders on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. The Wolf Pack, ranked fifth in the country, defeated the Trojans by the score of 73-61 at Galen Center. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Thurman scored 11 first half points on 5-of-6 shooting for Nevada. Caroline also posted 11 points in the first half. Rakocevic put up 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Trojans’ first half efforts.        

Caroline dominated the first five minutes of action, scoring six of Nevada’s first nine points in the paint. Aaron put up five of the Trojans’ first nine points. Caleb Martin misfired a 3-point attempt, breaking the USC transition offense free. Thornton raced towards the right side of the floor, skied for the rim and flushed down a dunk to ignite the Galen Center crowd. Cody Martin hit a jumper to stop an early USC run. USC held a 17-13 advantage eight minutes into the first half.

Thornton penetrated through the middle of the Nevada defense, kicked it out and found Usher for a wide open corner 3. Caleb Martin responded by slicing through the Trojan defense for an easy layup, bringing Nevada to within three and forcing a USC timeout. Nevada guard Jazz Johnson canned a 3-pointer to make the score 22-20, with USC still holding a narrow lead with 7:52 remaining in the first period.

Notes

USC made just 23.8 percent of their 3-pointers and shot 50 percent from the free-throw line. The Trojans outscored Nevada in fastbreak points, 14-13. Both teams scored 34 points in the paint.

What’s Next for the Trojans

Nevada remains undefeated at 8-0, while USC falls to 5-3. The Trojans face TCU in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center on Friday (Dec. 7), before heading to Oklahoma (Saturday, Dec. 15) and Santa Clara (Tuesday, Dec. 18).

Blake Atwell
About Blake Atwell 25 Articles
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and freshman at Santa Monica College. For the past two summers, he’s worked at the Los Angeles Times as a multimedia intern with the Times’ youth journalism platform, HS Insider. Blake is in his first season covering UCLA football, USC basketball & more with News4usonline.com.

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