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With USC’s De’Anthony Melton held out amid FBI probe, Jonah Mathews steps into starting role

By in Press Enterprise on November 26, 2017

By Joey Kaufman

LOS ANGELES — Jonah Mathews kept his right arm extended, finishing his follow-through on a 3-point attempt from atop the key midway through the first half.

The basketball was dropping toward the rim, and Mathews started pacing back as if he knew the final result.

It was good.

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In USC’s 88-63 victory over Lehigh on Wednesday, it was one of the four shots that Mathews drained from beyond the arc, a surge of scoring in the starting lineup.

For the first two weeks of this season, the Trojans have been without De’Anthony Melton, their do-everything sophomore guard, amid an FBI probe into corruption and bribery in college basketball, along with a school investigation into Melton’s eligibility.

His absence has forced Coach Andy Enfield to adjust his starting five. Through four games, it has been a simple swap, Mathews, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, in place of Melton in the backcourt.

The 10th-ranked Trojans’ roster carries a surplus of talent able to fill in for Melton, with Shaqquan Aaron, a fourth-year junior who flirted with turning pro after last season, and Derryck Thornton, a third-year sophomore and heralded Duke transfer now eligible.

Instead, Enfield saw an easy switch.

“We don’t promise or guarantee starting spots in this program,” Enfield said. “Jonah Mathews earned that in the preseason.”

Enfield rattled off a variety of stats from practices and scrimmages.

Mathews shot 50 percent, including almost 50 percent from 3-point range. On the defensive end, he ranked second on the team in steals.

Little has changed in game action.

Entering Sunday night’s anticipated tip-off against No. 16 Texas A&M, Mathews, who scored a season-high 18 points against Lehigh, is among four players scoring in double-figures, averaging 10.5 points per game, ahead of veterans Elijah […]    

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