Los Angeles Times

Ellis not enough as USC can’t keep up

He scores a career-high 35 points, but Trojans get little from others in a home loss.

- By Ryan Kartje


For the last two weeks, as the pieces finally started to fit for USC, Boogie Ellis had been the glue, a once-streaky point guard finally coming into his own as the engine of a suddenly soaring offense.

But as those pieces began to come apart Thursday for USC, its senior point guard was left to drive a sputtering offense alone, firing one three-pointer after another, emptying his tank until only fumes remained. It wouldn’t be enough, as USC eventually broke down in an 8781 loss to No. 8 Arizona.

An otherwise lifeless offense wouldn’t keep Ellis from trying to push the Trojans along. He set another career high in the process, scoring 35 points and knocking down six threes.

Still, it was no use. With each answer, Arizona would offer its own full-throated response, using all of its weapons to overpower USC, which has now locked in the No. 3 seed for next week’s Pac-12 tournament.

The Trojans, meanwhile, were left with merely Ellis, who had little help. Dealing with a back injury, Drew Peterson finished with only five points. Among USC’s starters, only Kobe Johnson managed more.

This was hardly the kind of performanc­e the Trojans would’ve hoped for, with a chance to make a major statement on its tournament resume.

Everything had been clicking for USC coming into Thursday. The Trojans rolled into the final week of the regular season on a fourgame win streak, finally firing on all cylinders and sitting on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble.

They were scorching from deep during that stretch, knocking down nearly half of their last 100 attempts from three-point range. They were dominating on defense, holding those four opponents to 37% shooting. And their senior point guard was playing some of the best basketball of his college career, just as it was winding down.

But this week, Ellis still couldn’t shake the bitter taste left over from USC’s loss in Tucson. He vowed to be more aggressive and put the Trojans on his back.

Ellis came out firing confidentl­y, scoring 11 of USC’s first 16 points.

The problem for USC was no one else stepped up. Peterson, the Trojans’ second-leading scorer, had zero points at halftime. The rest of USC’s starting lineup combined to shoot one of nine.

And by that time, Ellis’ aggressive approach was already having unintended consequenc­es. He picked up his his third foul with more than two minutes left in the first half.

USC had no answer for Arizona’s size, even as it cycled through several different lineups in search of one. Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis had his way with the Trojans’ frontcourt, forcing USC to continuing adjusting its approach. Tubelis finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, once again punishing USC at every level of its defense.

The Trojans might see the Wildcats again soon, with Arizona locked in as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. They’ll need more than Ellis to make the statement they intended to make Thursday night.

 ?? Mark J. Terrill Associated Press ?? FORWARD KIJANI WRIGHT, left, of USC blocks a shot by Azuolas Tubelis of Arizona. Tubelis scored 25 for the Wildcats.
Mark J. Terrill Associated Press FORWARD KIJANI WRIGHT, left, of USC blocks a shot by Azuolas Tubelis of Arizona. Tubelis scored 25 for the Wildcats.

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