LOS ANGELES — At every seat in the lower bowl at Galen Center Saturday, cardinal foam fingers waited for fans. Not in the V for Victory, but with three fingers raised to celebrate any USC 3-pointer in the Trojans’ game against Stanford.
It was a bold statement for the Trojans to make. USC hasn’t exactly been a consistent threat from the distance this year, and entered the night making 32.8% of its 3-point attempts, ranking 262nd in Division I.
But USC rose to the marketing challenge, making a season-high 13 3-pointers to beat Stanford 85-75.
Boogie Ellis led the Trojans (19-8, 11-5 in Pac-12) with a career-high 33 points on 6 for 10 shooting from 3-point range to go with a career-high seven assists. Drew Peterson added 21 points with three triples as USC shot 13 for 25 from distance.
USC’s previous season-high of 12 3s didn’t even last 48 hours. Across the two wins over Cal and Stanford this week, USC made 25 3-pointers after averaging 5.6 in the first 25 games of the season.
“We have a lot of great shooters on our team,” Ellis said. “Our coaches tell us every day, ‘Guys, we gotta get more 3s up.’ So they want us to take them, we just gotta shoot them with confidence and knock them down.”
On Saturday, the Trojans actually got off to a slow 3 for 12 start from the floor with Stanford (11-16, 5-11) going up 15-9 with crisp passing and confident shots. But Peterson hit a 3-pointer to halve the lead and Ellis tied it with his own triple.
When two more 3s from Ellis and Kobe Johnson put USC up six, fans were waving their foam fingers in the air.
Stanford kept things close until Ellis hit back-to-back 3s in the final two minutes, giving him five for all 15 of his first-half points. Guard Kobe Johnson poked away a Stanford pass to set up the fastbreak that led to the fifth triple, with Peterson whipping the ball to Ellis in the corner for an eight-point lead.
USC got off to another slow, 2 for 8 start from the floor in the second half. But a Peterson 3 followed by an Ellis steal and dunk got the Trojans going again, even with Ellis getting hit with a technical for hanging on the rim.
Stanford is typically a pack-the-paint defense, which is why USC knew it had to shoot well on Saturday. Once the Trojans got going offensively, Stanford tried to stymie the shooting with a more perimeter-oriented defense.
But this only opened up driving lanes for Ellis and other Trojans to exploit and get to the rim or the free-throw line and keep the Cardinal out of reach.
“Pretty impressive, 33 points and seven assists in the same game. It means he made the right decision,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “He played a really good game after the beginning where he forced a couple shots.”
Shooting wasn’t the only encouraging sign for the Trojans. USC also got some welcome reinforcements on Saturday with the return of center Joshua Morgan (ankle) and guard Reese Dixon-Waters (leg) after four-game absences.
Both moved well in their returns off the bench. Morgan was able to slide laterally and challenge shots, while Dixon-Waters was a nuisance to ball handlers in the backcourt. Dixon-Waters got free for a two-handed transition dunk in the first half, then swung the ball to Morgan cutting to the rim for his own slam.
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