A second-chance 3-pointer lifted a weight off Kobe Johnson's shoulders, and three days later, the USC forward is still soaring.
The junior followed his slump-busting performance against California on Wednesday with a season-best 21 points against Stanford on Saturday at Galen Center, leading USC's star trio in a 93-79 win that completed a home sweep of the Bay Area schools.
Boogie Ellis, the fifth-year senior, had 22 points with five rebounds, four assists and three steals while freshman Isaiah Collier scored 18 of his 26 points during the second half to help USC (8-7, 2-2 Pac-12) hold off the Cardinal, who shot 52.7% from the field.
Not to be left out, Johnson played what USC coach Andy Enfield called "his best game of the year," scoring his season high on efficient 9-of-18 shooting with five rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks.
The forward scored in double figures in both games this week after breaking out of his month-long shooting slump on Wednesday. Johnson missed his first four shots against the Bears, but starting with his 3-pointer with 17:36 left in the second half Wednesday, he made five of his six shots in the second half.
He shot 30.4% (17 for 56) in USC's six games in December when the Trojans were 1-5.
"The biggest thing is my confidence is high right now," said Johnson, who scored 14 points against Cal. "I'm just running with it, taking the shots I know I can make and thankfully they're falling in so I'm just going to keep shooting the shots I know I can make."
Johnson, Ellis and Collier combined for 37 of USC's 39 first-half points as the Trojans built a four-point halftime lead. They finally got help from their teammates in the second half as DJ Rodman, who finished with nine points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers that sparked an 8-2 USC run.
Rodman pushed the lead to 10 with two free throws with 12:20 remaining, but the Cardinal (7-7, 2-2 Pac-12) responded with 10 consecutive points to erase the deficit easily against USC's streaky defense.
Enfield lamented this week that this is his "worst defensive team by far in a long time." The Trojans entered Saturday's game on pace to have their worst scoring defense since 2013-14, allowing 74.7 points. They've already allowed opponents to shoot 50% or better four times this season after just two last year. The Cardinal shot 61.5% from the field in the second half, led by 23 points from Michael Jones, who made eight of nine shots and all five of his 3-pointers.
"When you force 18 turnovers, have 13 steals even though they did shoot a high percentage, you're still able to control the game as best we could," Enfield said. "Defense wasn't perfect."
On offense, USC is starting to find a new rhythm in the new year. Since playing four consecutive road games to finish December, the Trojans have rededicated themselves to sharing the ball during practice. The energy during the sessions "has been through the roof," Johnson said, and is bleeding over to game days.
"We're playing a lot more unselfish," Johnson said. "Offensively, we're moving the ball around a whole lot. Everybody's touching the ball, moving it side to side multiple times before putting up the shot. It's no more one pass and shoot it, so I think that was the biggest key for us, taking care of the ball and making sure we got really good possessions on offense."
The Trojans had 18 turnovers to 14 assists in their loss to Oregon State compared to 19 and 47, respectively, in their wins over Stanford and Cal.