Trojans’ tournament run ends against Gonzaga

After three consecutive double-digit wins, the men of Troy punched their ticket to the Elite Eight. This marked the program’s first appearance in two decades.

A challenge stood in the Trojans’ way on their quest to the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1954. The challenger? The undefeated and No. 1 seed. Gonzaga.

In the opening minutes, USC struggled under the national spotlight against the top-ranked team in the country. 

The Bulldogs forced the Trojans into seven turnovers that translated into 15 quick points. This was more than enough cushion for the No. 1 Bulldogs to coast past No. 6 USC 85-66 on Tuesday from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Isaiah Mobley led the way for USC with 19 points on 7-11 shooting. He also snagged seven rebounds on the game.

“[Isaiah] Mobley has improved,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “His inside-outside game he’s improved, his shooting, his ball-handling and he’s getting better as a player.” 

A projected NBA lottery pick, brother Evan Mobley contributed 17 points on 5-11 shooting, with five rebounds. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 30: Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Trojan defense was able to buckle down in the second half only committing three turnovers the rest of the way, but getting into a hole early and a lacking offensive night dug the Trojans a deep hole they couldn’t seem to escape.

Gonzaga shot 58 percent from the field to the Trojans unsettling 35 percent performance (11-31). The Bulldogs were led by sophomore forward Drew Timme who scored 23 points while polishing his stat line with five rebounds and four assists. 

They also got contributions from West Coast Conference Freshman of the year Jalen Suggs who contributed a near triple-double with 18 points, ten rebounds, and had eight assists. 

While the Trojan nation is disappointed the team came up just short of punching their ticket to the final four, Coach Enfield reflected on what his team was able to accomplish in what was a very unusual season for all involved.

“This is a very special team in USC basketball history to be 25-8, make the Elite Eight,” Enfield said. “I just can’t say enough about these guys. I know tonight was not the result we all wanted, but these guys are winners in here. We were picked sixth in the preseason in our own league and came in the top eight in this country. To do that, this is a really special basketball team, and we’re very, very proud of them.” 

USC now heads back to Los Angeles and closes the book on a special 2020-21 season and begins preparations for the upcoming 2021-22 season as it looks to end the program’s long championship drought.