March 1, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Mobley brothers lead USC to impressive win over Arizona State

The race was already on, two Pac-12 foes flying up and down the court, when the 7-foot freshman stole the inbounds pass under one basket, turned around, and saw a wide-open path to the other.

So Evan Mobley took off without a second thought, sprinting coast to coast like a gangly gazelle bound for the NBA lottery, leaving every Sun Devils defender in his dust. All game long, USC let Arizona State dictate the breakneck pace, but as Mobley burst from end to end early in the second half, here were the Trojans and their star telling the speedy Sun Devils try to keep up.

Turns out, they couldn’t. Not with the Trojans’ offense clicking and the Mobley brothers rolling, and USC winning at a pace it hasn’t matched since the 1973-74 season. It was only a matter of minutes after Mobley finished his sprint with a two-handed slam that USC outran Arizona State for good 89-71 securing its seventh straight win and its 13th in 14 games.

With five games left in the regular season — and potentially a sixth, if it’s able to reschedule a postponed meeting with Oregon — USC (18-3 overall, 12-2 Pac-12) finds itself at the front of the conference race at precisely the right time. The Trojans had never won five games in February under Enfield until Wednesday night — and still have four more to play this month in what’s so far been the coach’s most promising season of his eight at USC.

“We’ve been playing good basketball during this stretch in the Pac-12,” Enfield said. “But we know it’s game to game.”

For Evan Mobley, his night-to-night dominance hasn’t varied much lately. He was extraordinary again, missing just two of his 11 shots and dishing out of double teams like an oversized point guard. He led the team in points (22), assists (7), blocks (3), and steals (2) while falling just one rebound short of a double-double.

He was perhaps most dazzling as a passer, maneuvering out of double teams to find his brother, Isaiah, who was in the middle of his own career night.

“He looked like Tom Brady with the ball in his hands just reading the defense and making the right play,” Enfield said of Evan Mobley.

USC forward Evan Mobley dunks during the second half against Arizona State on Wednesday at Galen Center.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Five of Evan’s seven assists came on dishes around the hoops to Isaiah, whose man often abandoned him to help out on his brother. The sibling connection befuddled Arizona State’s shorthanded defense throughout. Both at one point even sunk shots from three-point range.

“We had a feel for each other in this game,” Evan Mobley said. “I knew they were going to double me for most of the game, so every time I was down in the post, I trusted him.”

Future plans for handling Evan may have to be reimagined if his sophomore brother continues finding his footing. Isaiah looked as confident as he has all season, scoring a career-high 20 points and adding 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season. Against an undersized Arizona State lineup missing two key players, he had no trouble exploiting his size underneath.

“I know what’s at stake,” Isaiah Mobley said. “This team is excellent. When I get going, everyone else gets going.”

With the two firing on all cylinders, the rest of the Pac-12 would be hard-pressed to contain USC in the post. If the Trojans can keep shooting 56% from three-point range, as they did Wednesday night, they may be able to set their sights higher.

Tahj Eaddy again led the way in that regard, hitting four of six from long range and scoring 18 points after poring in 29 in USC’s last outing. But it was USC’s defense locking down late that finally did away with Arizona State, which hung around thanks to a stellar, 30-point performance from guard Remy Martin.

USC allowed just 27 second-half points, and there was no keeping up after that for Arizona State.

“It’s been an excellent ride so far, even through the bumps and the mud,” Isaiah Mobley said, less than two weeks from the start of March. “Hopefully we can ride this thing out.”