Vince Iwuchukwu drives to the basket during the Pangos All-American Camp on June 8, 2021, at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy in Las Vegas. (Brian Rothmuller / Getty Images))
The few glimpses were brief, but breathtaking. A put-back dunk. A pick-and-roll layin. A fierce challenge at the rim. All blips of a bright future stretched over 14 minutes of a blowout win in Tempe.
Vince Iwuchukwu was still finding his footing last Saturday, still working his way back to full strength, six months after suffering cardiac arrest during a summer workout. The fact that the five-star freshman was playing at all at this point in USC’s season, given all he’d been through, was noteworthy. But by his fourth game back, as he scored 12 points off the bench against Arizona State, providing a spark on both ends of the court, the implications of the 7-footer’s arrival for USC had become abundantly clear to anyone watching. Including the rival coach across town.
“They are a different team now with Vince,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said of USC this week.
The Trojans will have the chance to prove as much Thursday, when they welcome No. 8 UCLA to Galen Center, three weeks after their last meeting at Pauley Pavilion went down to the wire. UCLA ultimately escaped that outing with a late Jaylen Clark three-pointer, extending a winning streak that grew to 14 games. USC, in the meantime, has won three of four since its furious second-half comeback fell short in the first matchup, the Trojans finally finding their stride after an uneven start to the season.
“We’ve really improved as a team,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We’re playing much better offensively. Defensively, we’re still tough.”
And with Iwuchukwu, the Trojans may have finally found what they’ve sorely been lacking in the frontcourt. That disparity was on display in the first half of their first meeting, as USC was bullied on the boards and outmuscled by UCLA underneath. The lackluster start led Enfield to bench regular big…
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Author : LA Times
Publish date : 2023-01-25 17:53:23
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