Basketball: Drew Peterson scores 8 points in OT as USC escapes UC Riverside
Ostensibly, USC added UC Riverside to the schedule Tuesday night -- a game that was announced just a few days earlier -- because it wants to make up for the games it lost to COVID-19 and maximize its opportunity for wins with respect to its ultimate NCAA tournament resume.
But it almost backfired for the Trojans.
UC Riverside led by 5 points at halftime and by a point in the final minute as USC weathered another cold shooting night. But Isaiah White rattled in the second of two free throws late, Evan Mobley blocked a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime and Drew Peterson scored 8 of his 12 points in the extra session to lead USC to a 67-62 win at Galen Center.
Mobley had 20 points, 11 rebounds and blocked 6 shots for the second straight game, his brother Isaiah Mobley had 16 points and 12 rebounds, Peterson had 12 points and 8 boards and Tahj Eaddy chipped in 10 points as the Trojans improved to 9-2.
"Give UC Riverside credit, they played really well defensively tonight. They played harder than us at the beginning of the game. We got off to a slow start and gave them some confidence and made it a game," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "It was a good win for us given the circumstances, shooting 3 for 21 from the 3-point line again -- it's very challenging when you can't make shots. That's a big part of the game of basketball. You've got to be able to score the ball."
Indeed, USC was 3 of 21 from 3-point range and shot just 38.1 percent from the field overall. This after shooting 3 of 22 from long distance in the win over Arizona State on Saturday.
In contrast, UC Riverside (4-3) hit some big 3s (12 of 32 overall) to make this one close.
"I am concerned because it's really affected us," Enfield said of the shooting woes. "To give you an example, they had one player (Dominick Pickett), he was 4 for 4 from the 3-point line and he made more than our entire team and we took 21 shots. And a lot of them, I would say most of the shots were wide open, were good shots. I don't think we forced a whole lot tonight, but the ball has to go in for somebody. After two games of seeing this it's frustrating. It's frustrating for Evan when they double-team him in the post and we kick it out, and it also really affects our spacing because teams can just sag in the paint. It's hard to get to the rim when three or four or five guys are in the paint, so we've got to be able to spread the floor by making some 3s. ...
"Whether it's in their head or not, they've got to get it out of their head and start making some shots."
The Trojans made just enough Tuesday to escape with the win.
UC Riverside pulled back ahead, 53-52, with 30.4 seconds left in regulation on a short step-back jumper from Zyon Pullin, putting all the pressure on the Trojans not to take a bad loss and defeat the purpose of adding this game.
But USC answered when Evan Mobley was cut off trying to get into the paint and kicked to White cutting across the baseline. He was fouled, and after missing the first free throw he rattled in the second to tie it with 12.9 seconds remaining.
The younger Mobley then got the block on the other end to preserve the tie and force overtime.
That's when Peterson, the crafty and versatile transfer from Rice, went to work.
It actually started for the Trojans with Evan Mobley throwing in a left-handed putback jam off a missed jumper from his brother for a 55-54 lead. On the next Trojans' possession, Peterson drove into the paint and drew a foul while knocking down the shot and the ensuing free throw. And the next time down court, he finished inside while drawing another foul and again converting the old-fashioned 3-point play for a 61-56 lead.
"We posted him up a couple of times and put him in some situations where he could put the ball on the floor, but he made some good plays," Enfield said of Peterson. He's big, so he can post up other guards. ... I thought he played outstanding offensively in overtime."
After Pickett hit the last of his big 3s for UC Riverside, Peterson drained a turnaround jumper from the elbow at the end of the shot clock.
"I played throughout the flow of the game and I found a couple good spots as we hit overtime, and my teammates trusted me to make the right shots," Peterson said. "I was missing a few early on and I got them to drop late in overtime and just happy to get the win. There's no free wins nowadays, especially with everything going on. ... Every win's going to be gritty, and this is really gritty one for us."
Pullin hit one more 3 for visitors to make it 65-62 with 52 seconds left, but Evan Mobley followed with a layup and the Trojans weren't threatened again.
Isaiah Mobley, meanwhile, continued to play with the heightened confidence he's shown in recent games. He was vital for the Trojans early, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half while showing deft touch on his short hooks and assertive moves when he got the ball in the paint.
"Just a fight I didn't want to lose," he said of his role early on. "I think this could be a championship team, I think we could end up making a big run this year, and also we're playing against a school from my area so kind of a pride thing as well. So just fighting and not wanting to lose ."
This was the first of three games this week for the Trojans, who host Washington and Washington State this Thursday-Saturday.
"This is a really challenging pandemic season. We got shut down for 14 days, we lost four games, and this is what we get," Enfield said of adding the game Tuesday night. "This is not on our schedule. We knew Riverside was a tough team and they're local, so we thank them for coming to play and it ended up being a great college basketball game -- they played very well. But we had to cram some games into our schedule. ... So it's going to be a very challenging two-week period, but that's what college basketball is about. We want to play games and because we were shut down this is where we are right now."
Starting point guard Ethan Anderson remained inactive due to the back injury that has sidelined him since early December, but Enfield is optimistic Anderson will play later this week.
"With only 6 assists tonight we sure needed him tonight to make some plays, but when you don't make shots that's why you have a low assist total. But he should be back either Thursday or Saturday," Enfield said. "It's going to be a game-time decision probably on Thursday. He just has to keep getting in shape. He is working out right now and I think he feels really good, so we are optimistic that we'll have him back soon."