February 25, 2024

It just took one name to elicit one of the loudest cheers in Galen Center in almost a month.

Bronny James!” the Galen Center public-address announcer shouted over screaming fans.

The son of Lakers superstar LeBron James made his first home start Saturday, helping USC secure an 82-54 victory over Oregon State that ended the team’s six-game losing streak.

The freshman from Sierra Canyon had nine points and six assists, just one shy of his career high set on Thursday against Oregon.

DJ Rodman was one of four double-digit scorers, finishing with 12 points and 14 rebounds, which matched his career high set last season at Washington State. After playing just one minute in the last two games, junior guard Harrison Hornery had a team-high 14 points on five-of-seven shooting off the bench as USC breathed a collective sigh of relief while ending its longest losing streak since 2015.

“USC doesn’t lose six games in a row,” Hornery said. “We don’t lose two in a row. We had to break this streak. The fans are disappointed. The school is disappointed in us so we had to come out and prove ourselves.”

USC (9-13, 3-8 Pac-12) produced its best scoring game since dropping 93 points against Stanford on Jan. 6, showing signs of life on offense for the first time since losing point guard Isaiah Collier to a broken right hand on Jan. 10. But USC’s defensive masterpiece stood out most.

The Trojans held Oregon State’s leading scorer Jordan Pope to just 14 points on four-of-four shooting. His four shot attempts were his fewest this season.

The Beavers (11-11, 3-8 Pac-12) torched USC for 86 points in Corvallis on Dec. 30, when Oregon State shot 59.6% from the field, the highest shooting percentage for a USC opponent since 2017. Pope had 20 points and six assists.

USC guard Boogie Ellis drives against Oregon State guard Dexter Akanno and center Chol Marial.

USC guard Boogie Ellis, right, drives against Oregon State guard Dexter Akanno and center Chol Marial, left, during the first half Saturday.

(Eric Thayer / Associated Press)

The sophomore picked up Saturday where he left off in December, swishing a three-pointer on OSU’s opening possession when he ran around a screen to get away from James. From there, the freshman locked in.

James almost exclusively face-guarded Pope when they were on the court together. Pope committed four of his season-high six first-half turnovers when James was his primary defender.

“Pope is so good because he changes speeds, he knows how to use screens, he’s a terrific shooter, great player,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “You gotta try to make their leading scorer work and tonight we did that.”

James has 13 assists in the past two games as he is beginning to thrive in an expanded role. It hasn’t necessarily been a smooth transition after Collier’s injury. James, who had three starts all on the road this season, went through a three-game, 0-for-14 shooting slump. But James has remained a steady defender for the Trojans, who are now reaping the rewards of the freshman’s progress on offense.

“He’s made a lot of growth as a point guard, specifically,” Rodman said. “I feel like he’s definitely taken a backseat to his skill, instead of making something happen. He’s one of the most talented players I’ve played with and he can lean back on his talent a little bit. … I think it was just one of those things where he needed to grow into college basketball.”

The veteran Rodman anchored USC’s defensive performance by responding to a pregame challenge from Enfield, who called for the forward to grab at least 10 rebounds against the Beavers. Rodman produced his second double-digit rebounding performance of the year.

Two days ago after giving up 17 offensive rebounds to Oregon, Enfield questioned USC’s toughness on the boards. The Trojans answered by outrebounding Oregon State 44-24. Even guard Oziyah Sellers grabbed three defensive rebounds.

“The first rebounds of his career,” Enfield joked after Sellers had no rebounds in 26 minutes Thursday.

For the first time this season, USC started three guards with James, Sellers and Boogie Ellis. Enfield praised the small group for their collective defense and Ellis’ smart ball movement. The fifth-year guard had six points and three assists with two steals.

James’ and Sellers’ roles have changed the most since Collier’s injury last month and they may shift again soon. The point guard could return as early as next weekend as USC travels to California and Stanford.

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