Joshua Morgan's monster block secures morale-boosting win for USC over Utah

Joshua Morgan’s monstrous block on Utah’s Deivon Smith cemented USC’s 68-64 win over Utah on Thursday as the Trojans fended off a late Utes rally to secure their sixth straight win in the series.

With USC leading by two and 11 seconds remaining, senior Boogie Ellis missed the front end of a one-and-one. Smith, who led Utah with 19 points, snatched the defensive rebound and raced up the court, driving straight to the rim. Morgan met him at the summit, sending a mostly sleepy Galen Center crowd into a frenzy. DJ Rodman secured the defensive rebound, raced down the court for a buzzer-beating layup and shouted toward the rafters.

Isaiah Collier led USC with 15 points and six assists. Rodman had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The thrilling ending gave the slumping Trojans a momentary lift.

The Trojans (10-15, 4-10 Pac-12) know the results of the next month are largely inconsequential. They recognize their only hope to make the NCAA tournament is to win the Pac-12 tournament. But before trying to run the table in Las Vegas, the Trojans still are playing for pride.

“I feel like we all haven’t been competing and that includes me,” Ellis said this week after practice. “I’m the leader of the team so I take a lot of credit. They’re a reflection of me.”

Ellis questioned the team’s pride after a 31-point loss to Stanford that was the program’s worst margin of defeat since 2020. Thursday’s game against Utah felt like the ultimate test. In his first two years at USC, Ellis never had lost to the Utes, he emphasized.

When Cole Bajema hit a three-pointer that put Utah ahead by two with 13:05 remaining, it seemed as if the Trojans would fold again. They had let a 13-point lead shrink to five by halftime. Ellis was grabbing at his nagging left hamstring and his three-point shot had been off all night.

Instead of their fifth-year leader, the Trojans turned to the freshmen Collier and Bronny James as they spurred the Trojans to nine straight points. Playing in his third game since returning from a broken right hand, Collier provided the fireworks on offense. James locked down on defense. They teamed for a high-flying dunk as James collected a loose ball off a steal from Ellis and threw an outlet pass to the sprinting Collier, who elevated for a two-handed slam that forced Utah to call a timeout.

But when James went to the bench with 3:46 remaining, the Trojans’ eight-point lead nearly evaporated as Utah went on a 6-0 run. Holding on to a two-point lead with 33 seconds remaining and needing a defensive stop, coach Andy Enfield subbed James back in.

It was likely no coincidence that he was the closest USC defender when Gabe Madsen turned the ball over out of bounds with 17.5 seconds left.

James finished with seven points, three rebounds and three assists.

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