LOS ANGELES – In the middle of the first half, the USC student class at the Gallen Center began raising their arms in anticipation of every time guard boogie Ellis went into shooting motion.
And for the most part, the Memphis transfer tied the knot with 19 points on a 7-for-12 shooting in a 93-73 win over Utah in the Trojans’ Pac-12 opener on Wednesday night.
The game quickly went out of hand at the end of the first half as the Trojans closed for 23-7 before heading to the locker room. Utes was short-handed upon arrival in LA with eight scholarship players, and it only got worse when forward Brandon Carlson walked away with a foot injury.
But completely healthy or not, it didn’t matter the way No. 20 USC and Ellis shot the ball exclusively on Wednesday.
As the Trojans (7-0 on aggregate, 1-0 Pac-12) drew some distance between themselves and the spectators, Ellis was in the middle of it all. He yelled at the student class after stealing and stung with one hand. Soon after, an Isaiah Mobley stepped off the glass to extend USC’s lead to eight and force a Utah timeout.
This did little to help the Utes (5-2, 0-1) regroup, and soon Ellis hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then stole a pass from Rowley Wurster and hit USC. It took the distance for another Tomahawk dunk to push the lead to 17 with 1:14 in the half.
Ellis shot 6-for-9 to finish the first half with 16 points.
It wasn’t entirely Alice’s show. Mobley had an easy time on 8-for-14 shooting with post moves and hook shots to the tune of a team-high 21 points. Drew Peterson had some good spin moves for the paint on the drive to free himself up for an easy lay-up.
And the Trojans did what they do best, namely defend and rebound. USC held Utah off the floor for a 1-for-7 start and the Utes scored 11 for 37 in the first half. Meanwhile, USC won the rebounding fight 51–32, with Mobley leading the team with a career-high 13 for his second double-double in as many games.
When the Trojans went without a field goal for 4:08 in the second half and Utes were within 16, coach Andy Enfield put Ellis back in the game. Ellis quickly dribbled around a screen at the top of the arc and calmly sank a deep 3-pointer.
Still, USC was having trouble shutting down the Utes as it missed a 10-second-half free throw and both Utah guards allowed Gatch to score career-high 28s.
But Mobley kept the game up with five straight points and a blocked shot to set up Ellis Lobb to Max Agboncapolo, who helped close it in the second half by scoring 11 of his 16 points.
There is much more to come on this story.