LOS ANGELES — Four games into the season, Southern California's three-guard rotation is on a roll.
Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points, Katin Reinhardt added 17 and USC cruised past Cal State Northridge 96-61 Monday night for the Trojans' first 4-0 start since 2000-01.
"Coach said you got to treat every game like it's a tournament game," Reinhardt said. "That's our ultimate goal to play in the postseason. We came out in the last few games and dominated."
McLaughlin has come back strong after missing the final eight games last season because of shoulder injuries. He's scored at least 20 points in three of four games, and while Julian Jacobs and Elijah Stewart's offensive output was down for the first time, the Trojans got contributions from others.
They had a season-high 26 assists and made 37 field goals.
"We really emphasize playing team basketball," Reinhardt said. "If someone is open, pass the ball."
Bennie Boatwright added 12 points and Nikola Jovanovic had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans. They made a season-high 13 3-pointers, with McLaughlin hitting four and Reinhardt five, surpassing their previous best of 12 last Saturday against New Mexico.
"Our entire guard rotation is playing at a high level," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "We're more talented, a year older — players are improving their skill sets. Last year they really didn't understand how hard you have to work."
Freshman Jason Richardson led the Matadors (2-3) with 18 points. Olalekan Ajayi had 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. The team is getting by with just seven scholarship players, leading to fatigue.
"That's every game for us. We have got to find a way to fight through that and stick together as a team," Richardson said. "We just didn't shoot the ball well. When a team gets 13 threes on you, it's tough to battle back."
Reinhardt's 3-pointer pushed USC to its largest lead of 72-37 midway through the second half.
"They have a lot of weapons," third-year Matadors coach Reggie Theus said. "They're moving the ball and playing with power, energy."
The Matadors were 1 of 14 from 3-point range. It was their worst loss since an 80-49 defeat against UC Irvine in January.
"Our margin of error is almost zero. We can play well and then you make a couple mistakes things are going to happen," Theus said. "I'm not disappointed in the effort areas. I'm not disappointed in the area of execution. I just think that they were better, more powerful, bigger, and deeper."
The Trojans led 46-26 at halftime — using runs of 13-0 and 15-2 — after going up by 27 on a 3-pointer by McLaughlin. The Matadors shot 35 percent in the half when their bench got outscored 15-0.
CSUN: The Matadors are keeping it local with four straight games against USC, Loyola Marymount, UCLA and Pepperdine. Only the game against the Waves is at home. ... Richardson is leading the team in points and assists so far.
USC: The Trojans had 15 assists on 17 field goals in the first half. ... Julian Jacobs had 11 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. ... They improved to 7-1 all-time against Northridge. ... They just missed reaching the century mark for the second time in three games, having beaten Monmouth 101-90 on Nov. 16. ... Ten of 12 players scored.
CONTROLLING THE BOARDS
The Trojans dominated the boards 57-34, including a 38-22 edge on the defensive glass.
"When you shoot 34 percent for the game there is a lot of rebounds out there," Theus said.
Ajayi's 14 rebounds for the Matadors including 10 on the defensive end.
CSUN: At Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.
USC: Plays No. 20 Wichita State at AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida.