USC thwarts UC Riverside’s upset bid in OT

Having lost several scheduled games to COVID-19 restrictions, USC booked a replacement game against UC Riverside for Tuesday night at the Galen Center, a mid-week game sandwiched between Pac-12 opponents.

The Trojans got a little more than they likely expected from the Highlanders and needed a big overtime period from Drew Peterson to complement nice efforts from brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley and close out a 67-62 victory.

UCR used a 16-0 run in the first half to open a five-point lead at halftime and the Big West Conference visitors had a chance to win the game in regulation before 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley blocked Zyan Pullin’s shot at the buzzer. It was one of six blocks for Mobley, who boasts a 7-5 wingspan.

Evan Mobley’s dunk with 4:05 left in the extra session gave the Trojans (9-2) the lead for good but they never created much distance from the Highlanders (4-3). USC had a one-point lead when Peterson scored three-point plays on back-to-back possessions, a jumper and a free throw followed by an inside basket and free throw that extended the margin to 61-56 with 2:35 left.

Dominick Pickett came back with a 3-pointer for UCR 19 seconds later, but Evan Mobley sank a pair of free throws, Peterson hit a jumper and the Trojans had enough room to hold on.

Evan Mobley scored 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting) and had 11 rebounds to go with his defensive contributions, and Isaiah Mobley finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Trojans. Peterson had 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Tahj Eaddy added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

UCR had five players score in double digits: Pickett (16), Cameron Flynn (12) and Jock Perry, Pullin and Arinze Chidom 10 each.

“UC Riverside played well defensively, and we had a slow start that gave them some confidence,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was a good win considering we were 3 for 21 from the 3-point line.

“We’ve had trouble there recently. I think we’re 6 for 43 the last few games, and a lot of those shots were wide open. We weren’t forcing anything; we just didn’t make many.”

In overtime, the Trojans used their height advantage to post up the 6-8 Peterson for good looks.

“We’re happy to get a win,” Peterson said. “There are no free wins these days. Every win you get is gritty.”

Especially when the schedule is in a constant state of flux. That has been a concern for most Division I teams. The Trojans booked the game between conference games, which was a challenge considering the unexpected depth of the Pac-12 this season. Tuseday’s game was the first of six scheduled during a 12-day period.

“UC Riverside was a tough and local team and it was a cram session for us to be ready,” Enfield said.

“They kind of dared us to take outside shots, and were forcing us to the left side, which we didn’t expect,” Isaiah Mobley said. “We just had to start executing the way we know how. I really think this is a championship team, and winning games like this shows what we can do.”

USC led 14-9 when UCR went on its 16-0 run, Flynn hitting three 3-pointers and Wil Tattersall capping the run with one of his own with 7:56 left before halftime.

UCR led 32-27 at halftime. USC’s 52-47 lead in the second half with 3:10 left was the largest lead for either team prior to overtime.

UCR outscored USC 36-9 from beyond the arc but was just 2 for 9 from the free-throw line compared to the Trojans’ 16-for-22 mark. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. USC outrebounded UCR, 47-37.

WHO TO BELIEVE?

USC entered the game 5-0 all-time against UC Riverside, winning the last meeting, 70-26, on Dec. 15, 2012. USC was forced to vacate its 2008 victory against the Highlanders due to NCAA penalties. But that’s according to the Trojans’ media guide.

The Highlanders’ media guide gives UC Riverside credit for wins against USC on Feb. 3, 1967 and Nov. 30, 1979 and puts the rivalry at 6-2 in favor of the Trojans.

New services contributed to this story.

UP NEXT

UC Riverside faces Cal Poly on the road for back-to-back Big West games on Friday and Saturday.

USC resumes Pac-12 play when it welcomes Washington to town on Thursday.