LOS ANGELES — As a Colorado guard attacked the paint late in a one-possession game, USC center Joshua Morgan came flying in to defend the rim. He lifted up and swatted away the ball with one of his long arms and watched it sail into the Galen Center stands.
And Morgan, usually a business-as-usual presence on the court, howled for all to see.
“I actually normally don’t do much emoting at the end,” Morgan said sheepishly. “But this entire game, even before coming into the game, I was really hyped because I wanted to make a point.”
Prior to the Trojans’ win over Colorado, Morgan suffered through a humbling game against UCLA. He was ineffective guarding the rim against the Bruins in the first half, didn’t grab a single rebound and overall didn’t make an impact.
After halftime, Morgan found himself on the bench rather than in his usual place in the starting lineup. He watched as USC’s other bigs tried to will the Trojans back into the game, only coming in for a few defensive possessions late in the loss.
Back in the starting lineup against Colorado, Morgan seemed determined to make an impact. He had two quick dunks, one off an alley oop from Boogie Ellis, before heading to the bench for a breather. He returned and immediately blocked a jump shot.
With four blocks and three steals, Morgan was extremely active on defense while scoring 12 points to go with four rebounds in 30 minutes.
“I had a lot of motivation coming into this game,” Morgan said. “I feel like last game I kind of let my teammates down with how I played. So this entire week and this game I really had to make sure I wasn’t going to be a detriment, I was going to make up for the last game and I think I did that.”
Morgan has been a key and necessary piece for USC this season, taking on the bulk of the Trojans’ low post minutes after the losses of Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin. But there have been dips in production, whether due to foul trouble or energy level.
But he will try to continue this stretch of strong play on Saturday as the Trojans (12-5, 4-2 in Pac-12) take on Utah (12-6, 5-2), one of the surprise teams in the Pac-12 this year that already has a win over Arizona and sits in third place in the conference. Utah is coming off a 68-49 loss to UCLA.
“He’s had a really good year for us this year,” Enfield said. “But like everybody else, you have to produce and you have to play hard and you have to do what you’re capable of doing. And if you don’t, we have a lot of guys that are pretty good players.”
“I just think I gotta have a mentality, like, the moment I come in I’m giving 110% and then I just go the entire time,” Morgan added.
Utah at USC
When: Saturday, 7: 30 p.m.
Where: Galen Center
TV/Radio: Pac-12/790 AM