LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long Beach State gave up 17 points in the first five minutes of the game and only two of those were scored by Onyeka Okongwu.
The freshman saved his big impact for the second half, scoring 24 of his 28 points to lead Southern California over the Beach 87-76 on Sunday for the Trojans’ third straight win.
Okongwu was limited to four points on 2-of-5 shooting, one block, one steal and one foul in the first half. He came alive to start the final 20 minutes, scoring 16 of the Trojans’ first 17 points as they extended their lead to 12 points.
“Great players make great plays,” Beach guard Chance Hunter said. “We tried to key and stop him but it wasn’t enough.”
Okongwu had three dunks in the game, the last coming off an inbounds pass from Ethan Anderson that pushed the Trojans’ lead to 70-56.
Mathews added 18 points, making five 3-pointers, and freshman Isaiah Mobley had 11 points and nine rebounds. Mathews scored the Trojans’ last nine points of the game.
Hunter scored 18 points for the Beach (3-8), which has lost four in a row and seven straight to the Trojans in Los Angeles. Colin Slater added 15 points.
“They’re probably the biggest mismatch we’ve seen all year as far as inside,” Beach coach Dan Monson said. “We zoned predominantly, way more than we ever do hoping they would miss some shots and they didn’t. They were able to score in other ways and broke us down a little bit.”
The Beach took its only lead on a 3-pointer by Max De Geest early in the game. The Trojans responded with a 14-2 run, including three straight 3-pointers, to lead by nine.
The Beach twice closed within three later in the half only to have the Trojans hit timely 3-pointers. USC ran off nine straight points for a 14-point lead. But Long Beach State outscored the Trojans 10-2 to trail 40-34 at the break.
Long Beach State: With a young roster, the Beach has played a strong nonconference schedule even if it has lost all four Pac-12 contests. It lost to UCLA by four points, by 28 to Stanford and by 37 to then-No. 14 Arizona before falling to the Trojans. The Beach has six freshmen, three transfers and three redshirt players this season. “”It’s preparing us for the battle in the end,” Hunter said. “We want to play in March and hopefully make some noise. It’s just making us stronger and more cohesive.”
USC: The Trojans are in the midst of playing eight of 10 games away from home, and they’ll open Pac-12 action next month with three straight road games. The 23 days between their last home game and Sunday’s contest at Galen Center is the longest stretch in a season without a home game since also going 23 days during the 1985 season.
Long Beach State: Hosts Southern Utah on Thursday in the second of three home games this month.
USC: Plays LSU on Saturday in a doubleheader at Staples Center in the teams’ first meeting since 1976.
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