LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nick Rakocevic took advantage of his first start of the season, helping USC dominate as part of a new-look trio of big men in the starting lineup.
Rakocevic, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu all had double-doubles to lead USC to an 82-59 win over Santa Clara on Thursday night. They combined for 57 points and 31 rebounds
They got to the rim with ease and Santa Clara never had an answer.
“It’s hard to guard three 7-footers,” Rakocevic said.
Rakocevic (6-11), Metu (6-11) and Boatwright (6-10) aren’t quite 7-foot but they sure played that way.
USC (5-3) snapped a three-game losing streak and did it in fun fashion with dunk after dunk after dunk.
“We’ve been trying to tell coach,” Metu said of starting three big men. “We’ve been trying to convince him.”
The move was made more out of necessity. Rakocevic was in the starting lineup because Elijah Stewart was late for a few things and as punishment did not start, according to USC coach Andy Enfield.
Boatwright had a game-high 21 points and added 11 rebounds. Metu had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Rakocevic had his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought they did a good job rebounding the ball and getting in their stance,” Enfield said. “Santa Clara spread us out with four or five guards. … Tonight we saw flashes of guys who were more like their normal selves than they had been the last couple of games.”
Guard Jordan McLaughlin has carried the load this season and continued to make plays for others. He had nine points and 10 assists. Everyone else was grooving. But Thursday’s win was all about the big men.
Josip Vrankic scored 15 points for Santa Clara (3-7), which lost its second straight game. Santa Clara shot just 31.3 percent from the field.
The Trojans started the game with a 10-0 run and never looked back. Santa Clara missed its first five shots before Shaquille Walters scored a basket and was fouled for a 3-point play. The Broncos never really pressured the Trojans and trailed 37-22 at halftime.
Early in the second half, Rakocevic went streaking down the lane uncontested and threw down a two-handed dunk. He was called for a technical foul after a layup extended USC’s lead to 50-35. The technical foul was one of few miscues for the Trojans.
“I felt I got fouled on that one and screamed, ‘And one.’ That was it,” Rakocevic said. “I had to live with it. Definitely not…