2016 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament: USC's Chimezie Metu welcomes Bruins to the dunk party in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS – USC freshman forward Chimezie Metu may not have been the best player on the court for the Trojans in their opening-round Pac-12 Tournament win against rival UCLA.
But undeniably, the 6-foot-11, 215-pound big man was their most exciting.
Metu recorded his first career double-double with a 10-point, 11-rebound performance off the bench for USC. A good deal of his work came in eyebrow-raising fashion, highlighted by a one-handed lob dunk courtesy of a pass from USC guard Jordan McLaughlin.
“Coach has been getting on us about opening up toward the ball, rolling right to the basket, rolling hard and that's what I did,” Metu said after the Trojans' 95-71 win. “Party time after that.”
McLaughlin's role in the dunk that went viral was just as important. His decision-making wasn't so difficult once he read the Bruins' defense.
“The big man hedged a little late and he was just playing the zone and (I) kept penetrating and reading the big man,” McLaughlin said. “He kind of stepped up a little bit towards me, so I know Chimezie, freak athlete. You got to throw the ball up, anywhere near the backboard, and he'll go get it and finish it.”
Perhaps the most impressive play Metu made Wednesday went unnoticed. In the first half, the lanky big man caught the ball on the left block, and moving to his right whipped a short pass, in traffic, behind his back. His teammate missed the layup.
Metu also made a save on the defensive end, sending a loose ball back toward his teammates – also behind the back. He didn't hear any complaints from USC coach Andy Enfield.
“As long as it works, he's really not saying anything about it,” Metu said.
Metu, center Nikola Jovanovic and fellow freshman Bennie Boatwright outplayed UCLA starting big men Tony Parker and Thomas Welsch, not to mention sub Gyorgy Goloman, the victim of Metu's most vicious slam. Boatwright finished with a USC team-high 19 points and added nine rebounds, while Jovanovic scored 16 to go with seven boards.
[Related video: Andy Enfield talks about Trojans' momentum after Pac-12 tourney win]
Then there was Metu's 5-of-7 shooting with a complement of dunks and putbacks. According to Enfield, it was the freshman's defense that impressed more than anything else.
“It feels really great to know that I got better over the season,” Metu said. “It felt really good to do it on this stage.”