No. 23 USC stays unbeaten with a 79-67 win over Cornell
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California coach Andy Enfield can hardly believe his team is still undefeated.
Chimezie Metu scored 17 points and Jordan McLaughlin had 16 points and nine assists to help No. 23 USC shake off another slow start with a 79-67 victory over Cornell on Monday night.
“We have a long way to go,” Enfield said. “We have to get better. Honestly, I have no idea how we’re 11-0.”
The Trojans fell behind by 10 points for the second consecutive game, but overcame sharp outside shooting by Cornell (2-7) with a solid second half.
Cornell fired away from 3-point range all night, hitting 12 of 30 attempts from beyond the arc to keep itself in the game.
Playing its seventh road game of the season, Cornell gave USC a tougher time than expected. Stone Gettings scored 22 points for the Big Red, Rob Hatter had 20 and Matt Morgan added 15.
“We had a game plan that was working for the most part, but they have some very talented, fundamentally sound players, and it was difficult to compete for that long,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said.
USC (11-0) looked like a team taking the Big Red lightly in the early going. With the Trojans hitting just one of their first eight shots, Cornell jumped out to a 16-6 lead behind a trio of 3-pointers from Gettings, a local product from Los Angeles Loyola High School.
Cornell was still up by nine with less than 8 minutes to play in the first half when USC started its comeback. Elijah Stewart, the Trojans’ leading scorer, missed his first five shots but hit a 3 in the last minute to give USC a 37-34 lead at the break.
“Our team is streaky, but we’re talented and we’re young and they play well together,” Enfield said. “As optimistic and proud as we are of them, we know we have a lot of work to do.”
USC, which never trailed in the second half, also had to erase a 10-point deficit in its previous game Saturday against Troy.
“We have to stop getting off to slow starts like that,” McLaughlin said. “We kind of wait, for some reason. It’s something we have to be focused on. You don’t want to play catch-up. Some night you won’t be able to do it.”
USC had a commanding height advantage and might have attempted to play too much 1-on-1 early, but did outrebound Cornell 43-28.
METU ON THE RISE
The 6-foot-11 sophomore forward came off the bench last season, but is beginning to look like a force as a starter for USC this season.
“Chimezie is a high-level talent and a lot comes down to physicality and athleticism when you match up against him,” Earl said. “We just couldn’t stop him. He will be in the league (the NBA) in a couple years, I imagine.”
The Trojans have pulled off six comebacks of at least nine points this season.
“We’re very explosive at times,” Enfield said. “We can score the ball. We just have to be more consistent.
“It’s hard to come back every game like that.”
The Trojans moved up one spot to No. 23 this week and figure to continue slowly climbing as long as they remain undefeated.
Cornell: It’s been nearly 60 years since Cornell beat a Top 25 team on the road. The last time the Ivy League school accomplished the feat was against No. 17 Syracuse on Dec. 14, 1957. That’s a streak of 52 consecutive losses.
USC: The 11-game winning streak is the longest for the Trojans since they opened 16-0 in 1971 and finished 24-2.
Cornell: The Big Red will meet their second team of Trojans when they play Troy on Thursday in Las Vegas.
USC: The Trojans face Missouri State on Thursday in Las Vegas.