LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chimezie Metu had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 10 Southern California routed Cal State Fullerton 84-42 on Friday night to open the season with its highest ranking since 1974-75.
The school better known for its nationally ranked football teams returns most of its basketball roster after a school-record 26 wins last season.
Bennie Boatwright added 13 points and Jordan McLaughlin had 12 points for the Trojans, who opened in the shadow of the sport’s bribery scheme that has seen associate head coach Tony Bland charged, along with assistants from three other schools. He is on administrative leave.
Sophomore De’Anthony Melton was in street clothes on USC’s bench for precautionary reasons, with the team saying it involves a potential eligibility issue. The team’s statement issued before the game said USC is “working diligently to independently investigate this matter.”
The FBI investigation of assistant coaches accused of using bribes to influence star players’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents referred to a USC sophomore. Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, starting 25 of 36 games last season.
Jackson Rowe led Fullerton with 12 points. The Titans fell to 0-6 in the teams’ first meeting since 2014.
The Trojans put the game out of reach from the opening tip. They raced to a 13-5 lead and extended it to 24-7, making four 3-pointers in that stretch.
USC hit seven 3s in the first half while holding the Titans to 15 percent shooting from the field. The Trojans led 42-15 at the break, with the Titans failing to make a field goal over the final 6:37. The one thing Fullerton kept pace with was rebounding, grabbing 22 boards to 25 for USC in the half.
The Trojans plowed through the second half, building their largest lead of 44 points in the final minutes. Shaqquan Aaron hit their ninth 3 for a 73-33 lead. They finished with 10 3-pointers.
The Trojans’ ranking surely boosted attendance for a Friday night opener in L.A., and their run-and-gun style entertained the crowd. Four newcomers blended in, led by Duke transfer Derryck Thornton, who had 11 points. Touted freshman G Chuck O’Bannon Jr., G-F Jordan Usher and F Victor Uyaelunmo made their college debuts.
The Titans boast the last two Big West freshmen of the year winners in Rowe and Khalil Ahmad, who is the top returning scorer with 11.2 points per game. The current roster includes five freshmen.
Cal State Fullerton visits No. 22 Saint Mary’s on Wednesday in its second straight game against a ranked opponent to open the season.
USC hosts North Dakota State on Monday, a team that went 19-11 last season.
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