LOS ANGELES — Southern California coach Andy Enfield is willing to give Chimezie Metu some leeway, and the junior uses it sometimes to call his own shot.
He didn’t hit a basket when he did that Friday night, but Metu showed off new range from beyond the arc in the 10th-ranked Trojans’ 84-42 rout of Cal State Fullerton to open the season.
Metu had 18 points, making both of his 3-point attempts, and had 10 rebounds.
“That’s him now. He can knock that down,” said teammate Bennie Boatwright, who added 13 points. “You can’t guard him so you got to hope he misses.”
The Trojans own their highest ranking since 1974-75, mostly because the school better known for its nationally ranked football teams returns most of its basketball roster after a school-record 26 wins last season.
“Rankings don’t mean anything when we step out on the court,” Boatwright said.
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.”
“We’ve very hopeful it will be quick,” Enfield said.
Melton has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
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.
“He’s a great player,” Enfield said. “He does everything.”
Jackson Rowe led Fullerton with 12 points. The Titans fell to 0-6 in the teams’ first meeting since 2014.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have to do and still put together,” Rowe said.
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.
BLOCK THAT SHOT
Metu and Boatwright combined on five of the Trojans’ nine blocked shots.
“That’s what we’re hanging our hat on defensively,” Metu said. “Some days shots may not be falling.”
HOLD THE ROCK
The Titans committed 21 turnovers and missed 17 of 19 3-pointers.
“We went really haphazard with the ball and threw it around like it was a rag doll,” Titans coach Dedrique Taylor said. “We were lackluster in everything that we did.”
They got beat on the boards, 52-44, and had just four assists.
The Trojans’ ranking surely boosted attendance to 6,327 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 recruits G Chuck O’Bannon Jr. (0 points), G-F Jordan Usher (0 points) and F Victor Uyaelunmo (4 points) 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.