Men’s basketball looks to extend win streak against Utah

first_img“Honestly, this was the most confident game I’ve had all season,” Okongwu said per the Associated Press after USC’s win over the Beavers. “It was really fun coming out there and playing against a sold-out crowd.” USC is coming back from a two-game road trip in the Beaver State, where the Trojans fell to No. 12 Oregon in double overtime but triumphed over Oregon State. A couple of costly turnovers and mistakes late in the Oregon game caused USC to suffer their second Pac-12 loss, but the win over Oregon State proved the Trojans’ potential is still alive and well in the conference. Okongwu is top-five in the Pac-12 in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage this season and does not seem to show any signs of slowing down. He and the Trojans — the best in the Pac-12 in rebounds and the worst in free-throw percentage and turnovers committed — will attempt to stop a Utah team that currently ranks first in the conference in free throw percentage. Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu has been a top rebounder and shot blocker in the Pac-12 this year. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Having won four of its last five games and sitting in a tie for second place in the Pac-12, the USC men’s basketball team will face Utah Thursday night at Galen Center. Led by phenom freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu, the Trojans are set to play a Utes team led by sophomore forward Timmy Allen that is coming off two straight wins against Washington State and Washington. USC will also have to look out for Utah redshirt freshman center Lahat Thioune in the paint, as the Senegal native is the Utes’ leader in field goal percentage at 72.2%, making him their most efficient player while averaging just 17 minutes per game. Expect Allen, Thioune and freshman guard Rylan Jones to run a majority of Utah’s offense and look for Okongwu and Rakocevic to make important plays near the rim on both sides of the ball. Senior forward Nick Rakocevic is 8-15 from beyond the arc, leading USC in 3-point percentage. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) “Rakocevic and [Okongwu], those guys are a load inside,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said at a press conference Tuesday. “[USC is] an elite rebounding team in our league, shot-blocking team. They provide a great post presence for those guys and then they’ve got a bunch of capable shooters and athletes.” USC head coach Andy Enfield and his team should also expect Utah to both commit and draw lots of fouls given the two teams’ shooting percentages from the charity stripe. The Trojans have arguably struggled at the free-throw line more than they have anywhere else on the court this season. However, as Enfield said after the Oregon State win, USC’s resilience both at home and on the road “is a credit to [USC’s] players” at this point of the season and is what has helped the Trojans catapult themselves into a tie with No. 20 Colorado for second place in the conference. The crowd of more than 9,000 in Corvallis, Ore. was in for a treat as they got a chance to watch a united USC team that has excited college basketball fans with acrobatic plays from Okongwu and freshman guard Ethan Anderson, a clutch comeback win against Stanford led by sophomore guard Elijah Weaver and solid 3-point shooting from senior forward Nick Rakocevic and redshirt senior guards Quinton Adlesh and Daniel Utomi. USC and Utah will tip off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Galen Center.last_img read more