USC shook off its Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinal defeat to Colorado to beat Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The reward for the Trojans for handing the Bulldogs a 72-56 defeat is a date with No. 3 Kansas.
While their next round meeting with the Jayhawks will no doubt present its own set of challenges, the Trojans celebrated their first step in postseason play.
The day after scoring 15 points and ripping five rebounds in the Trojans’ win, Mobley talked about what the win did for his confidence.
“Last game felt really good, especially just to get my first tournament win,” Mobley said. “My confidence went up a lot starting the game off with a dunk. So that was pretty cool. I kind of play with an extra chip on my shoulder not being able to play here last year with my guys-the seniors and all of that stuff. I’m excited and I’m sure I can carry that confidence and that shooting and performance into the next game against Kansas.”
USC head coach Andy Enfield and his players took some lessons away from their conference tournament experience and it translated into an easy victory over the 11th-seeded Bulldogs.
Isaiah Mobley was not the only family member to shine for The Men of Troy. Brother and freshman Evan Mobley scored 17 points. Evan proved to be the dominant force in the game, adding 11 rebounds and three blocked shots all the while knocking down 7 of his 15 field goal attempts on the day.
Isaiah converted 6 of his 7 field goals and grabbed five boards on his own to make it a true family affair.
“We both had great games, I feel like,” Evan Mobley said. “Both pretty big numbers. We’re going to cherish this win, but we can’t dwell on it too long because we’ve got other games coming up.”
Role players Tahj Eaddy and Drew Petersen got in on the party themselves for the Trojans. Petersen added 14 points, while sharp-shooting Eaddy helped himself by dishing out ten assists on the day scoring nine points with 33 minutes played.
USC struggled from the charity strike in the first half shooting a measly 33 percent from the line (3-9) while shooting 53 percent as a team. It seemed as if the Trojans’ struggles were coming to haunt them at the worst possible time on the biggest stage.
The Trojans had a hard time containing Drake’s Joseph Yesufu, who scored 18 first-half points on 4-6 shooting from three-point land. Yesufu finished the contest with a game-high 26 points.
“We didn’t really lock up on [Yesufu] the entire possession,” Evan Mobley said about his team’s early defensive struggles.
The Trojans were getting outplayed and were taking contested jumpers. They outscored the Bulldogs by 16 points to end the half but were clinging to only a three-point lead at the break.
Halftime was what the Trojans needed to silence Yesufu and the Bulldogs who opened the second half on an 8-0 scoring run forcing Drake to take tightly contested shots while being locked down on defense. In part, this tired out the Bulldogs and allowed the Trojans to pull away.
“Our goal was to take their best player out of the game in the second half and make everything tough,” Enfield said of his halftime defensive adjustments. “We did a good job of switching man and zone and we made him work.”
The halftime adjustments worked as the Trojans held Drake to just 19 points and 19% shooting in the second period.
USC looks to carry the winning momentum into the round of 32 as they prepare to do battle with third-seeded Kansas on Monday night from Hinkle Fieldhouse. Tip-off is set for 6:40 p.m.
Featured Image: INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 20: USC Trojans against the Drake Bulldogs in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)