March 12, 2020 

By Lauren A. Jones 

Contributing Writer 


With three seconds left on the game clock, USC trailed UCLA by one point 52-51. USC senior guard Jonah Mathews stepped back from well beyond the three-point line, rose up and released the ball. Swoosh, nothing but net. The game-winner to seal USC’s sweep of their crosstown rival UCLA at Galen Center on Saturday afternoon.


“You only dream of it,” Mathews reflected. “I dreamed about it last night, I was like, ‘what if I was going to end it this way? What if I was going to break the record and it happened to happen. I guess if you dream it, it can happen.”


Mathews celebrated setting the school record for all-time three-pointers made, previously held by former USC guard Elijah Stewart, as he suited up in his final game at Galen Center. 


“What a fitting way to end,” started USC head coach Andy Enfield.


Late in the second half of the game, with 1:41 left in the game, UCLA’s Tyger Campbell fouled Mathews to send him to the free-throw line as USC had the opportunity to take a five-point lead.


“Jonah missed those free throws I think on purpose to set up that last shot,” Enfield said jokingly. “He wanted to flare for the dramatics, he's going to remember that shot for the rest of his life.”


After Mathews missed both free throws, Chris Smith followed up on the other end with a layup to put the Bruins within one point of the Trojans, 51-50. Freshman standout Onyeka Okongwu, who was recently named to the All Pac-12 first team, also missed a pair of free throws but would finish with 16 points and six rebounds.


“He's our senior captain, we look up to him,” Okongwu said of Mathews.


UCLA had a chance to go up by three points as Cody Riley split a pair of free throws, which came as a surprise as UCLA had been perfect from the line up to that point.


Enfield made sure that Mathews, his best playmaker, had the ball in his hands for the final play of the game despite missing his free throws earlier.


“It was [Jonah’s] call whether to drive or stepback and he made a big shot,” Enfield stated of the game-winner.


Mathews said he knew what he was going to do in that scenario and it just happened to pan out exactly as he dreamt.


“Before the free-throw even happened, [Coach Enfield] was like we're putting the ball in your hands and we're going to live or die, so I was like 'We're going to live today',” said Mathews. “We're going to live and celebrate.”


“We trust him fully 100 percent,” Okongwu continued. “I love playing with Jonah, he's a great player to play with.”


As much as Enfield and Mathews’ teammates praised his scoring ability and leadership, Enfield emphasized the difference-maker in his skillset is his defensive capabilities.


“He's actually a better defensive player than he is an offensive player,” Enfield commented as Mathews was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defense team. “He's our best defender, probably the best guard defender in the Pac-12 right now.”


The Trojans ultimately beat the Bruins 54-52 with a storybook ending to the four-year career of the Santa Monica native in front of his family, high school coach and a sold-out star-studded home crowd that included Nick Young, LaMelo Ball, and Adoree Jackson.


“One hundred percent, it's just a dagger to their heart,” Mathews said of the rivalry. “I know it's going to stick with them forever, it's going to stick with me forever too. To do it, packed house...last game at Galen like I said before it's just something you can't really even dream of or think about it. You're just grateful that it happened.”


The win over UCLA snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Bruins and made it three consecutive wins for the Trojans as the team looks ahead to the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. It also gave USC a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, who is seeded third.

Category: Sports