Noah Baumann leaned to one side and watched his shot as it sailed towards the tire.
For a moment, the USC guard looked almost unsafe on his three-point release. But then he straightened his body and began to step back.
The shot was perfect. The ball splashed through the center of the net.
Baumann had his first real breakout performance for the Trojans in the 91:56 win against UC Irvine on Tuesday evening at the Galen Center. He hit all four of his three-point attempts in the first half on the way to a season high of 18 points. On the defensive he played with intensity and put 25 minutes on the floor at his first start to the season.
And a year after moving from San Jose state, he finally looked like dynamic perimeter options coach Andy Enfield, hoping he’d get into the 6-foot-6, 215-pound sniper.
“I pulled my tail off in my red shirt year,” said Baumann, who was eliminated under the NCAA rules last season. “I pulled my tail off in the summer. … I try to reach that intensity and show what I can do for this basketball team. “
Baumann, once one of the nation’s leading three-point shooters in the state of San Jose, fought averaging just four points in the first four games of the season and only made two out of nine attempts from long range.
“He’s an elite marksman,” said Enfield. “He’s a lot better than that.”
On Tuesday these old skills returned. Baumann hit a Trey from the top of the arch after running across a screen. He drilled another one in transition to a catch-and-shoot release from the right elbow. His fourth game in a row – the one he was watching closely from the left wing – was the result of a smooth delivery-pass sequence from the post.
Coupled with Evan Mobley’s team-leading 22-point, 11-rebound, and 12v24 three-point shooting as a team, Baumann’s efforts helped give USC its fourth win in five games.
The Trojans built a 25-point lead in the first half, never letting UC Irvine, preseason favorites in the Great West, cut the deficit to less than 17 points. They supported 23 of their 32 field goals. And they had a 42-34 lead on rebounds.
“It was a full game for us tonight,” said Enfield, whose team suffered their first loss of the season against Connecticut on Thursday. “They bounced back and played hard.”
Enfield was left without starting point guard Ethan Anderson for a second game due to a back injury – Anderson is available day in and day out and possibly for Sunday’s Pac-12 opener against Stanford – and also dropped guard Isaiah White, who was suffering from an illness . and Tahj Eaddy, who turned up late for a shootaround, on the bench in favor of Baumann and Max Agbonkpolo.
“We wanted to mix it up,” said Enfield. “We lost and it was important for our players to understand what it takes to win. We didn’t do a lot of little things against UConn. Somebody has to show up and do plays. “
Nobody capitalized more than Baumann and finally gave Enfield another goal option on the back seat.
“In a way it was a relief,” said Baumann. “But we have a lot to do and we have a good Stanford team. We are preparing for it.”