Unbeaten No. 24 USC faces stumbling Saint Joseph's

No. 24 Southern Cal aims to continue its unbeaten start Thursday when it opens the Wooden Legacy tournament against Saint Joseph's in Anaheim, Calif.

The Trojans (4-0) are coming off a season-high 98-point performance in a 27-point blowout of Dixie State on Monday. The lopsided win marked USC's first home game since its 89-49 season-opening rout of Cal State Northridge on Nov. 9 and the Trojans' first outing in almost a week.

They swept a pair of East Coast road games at Temple on Nov. 13 and coach Andy Enfield's return to Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 16.

USC has had at least three players score in double figures in every game so far and at least four do so in the past three games. Five Trojans recorded at least 12 points in Monday's victory, led by Boogie Ellis with 19 and Max Agbonkpolo with a career-high 17.

"It was very important to hit my shots tonight. It was getting in my head the first three games," Agbonkpolo said. "My teammates said to keep shooting. Tonight they went in and it felt good."

Agbonkpolo, at 8.8 points per game, is one of five Trojans averaging between 8.5 and Ellis' team-high 17.0 points per game. Chevez Goodwin is posting 14.8 points per game, Isaiah Mobley is scoring 12.8 a game, and both are averaging 8.0 rebounds per game.

Drew Peterson is adding 8.5 points and a team-high 4.5 assists per game for the nation's No. 28-ranked offense in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com metrics.

Saint Joseph's (2-2) comes to California on a two-game losing skid, dropping home games to Drexel and Monmouth on Nov. 17 and 20.

The Hawks have allowed an average of 82.5 points in losses, and 63.5 points in wins over Mount St. Mary's and Maryland Eastern Shore.

"The stats try to tell you a story, but the game gives you a flow," Saint Joseph's coach Billy Lange said following the loss to Monmouth, via Philly College Sports. "We're not getting back-to-back stops on some very solid defensive possessions. You have to finish it. That's part of the growth of a team. You have to do everything harder, stronger, longer, period."

Most vexing of Saint Joseph's defensive woes thus far has been its 3-point defense. Hawks opponents are connecting on 48.2 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc; only Mississippi Valley State and Montana have been worse among all Division I programs.

USC's Ellis and Mobley have hit 47.1 percent and 43.8 percent from long range thus far, respectively, but the Trojans are most proficient when attacking the rim. They rank No. 26 nationally in 2-point shooting at 58.8 percent.

Offensively, four Hawks are scoring in double-figures through their first four games. Taylor Funk's 18.5 points per game sets the pace, while Jordan Hall -- coming off a 24-point, 10-rebound performance against Monmouth -- is posting 15.5 points per game.

The versatile Hall flirted with a triple-double in Saint Joseph's season-opening win over Maryland Eastern Shore, going for 11 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

--Field Level Media


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