Lucky 13 The Trojans, off to their best start since 1971, are undefeated heading into Pac-12 play

Heading into Pac-12 play tonight, USC is 13-0 and off to its best start since the 1970-71 season, when the Trojans opened up with 16 straight victories.

After entering the season unranked, the team has rattled off win after win to make their way back into the national spotlight.

In their third game of the season, the Trojans made a statement by beating Texas A&M on the road.

USC trailed the reigning SEC champs by 3 with under a minute to go, but rallied for the victory to capture the attention of many.

After missing the first two games of the season with upper back spasms, sophomore captain Bennie Boatwright made his debut against Texas A&M and continued to contribute in the next few games.

But in USC's game at USD on Nov. 30, Boatwright suffered an MCL sprain, forcing the Trojans to adjust to playing without him for approximately six weeks.

The Trojans couldn't afford to miss a beat after Boatwright's injury, since they faced BYU in the inaugural Hoophall LA at STAPLES Center in their next game.

Freshman Nick Rakocevic was re-inserted into the starting lineup to replace Boatwright.

Fellow freshman De'Anthony Melton has played a large role in USC's 13-0 start. The L.A. native is averaging 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and he leads the Pac-12 with 24 steals.

While Melton leads the team in steals, Elijah Stewart, dubbed the most athletic player on the team by head coach Andy Enfield, leads the team in scoring.

Stewart dropped 30 points in the first game of the season, and has maintained a high level of play, averaging 15.5 PPG and hitting 41.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Big man Chimezie Metu has bolstered the USC defense this season. His team-high 7.8 rebounds per game and his 27 blocks have kept the Trojans alive in a number of close contests.

Captain Jordan McLaughlin has steadily run the Trojan offense while averaging 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.

He's been key in digging the Trojans out of early-game holes and sealing the deal down the stretch. The Bob Cousy Award nominee has hit 82 percent of his free throws and in USC's latest win, he nailed the go-ahead bucket in overtime.

USC won the Las Vegas Classic last week thanks in part to McLaughlin's heroics.

The Trojans took down Missouri State in the tournament's first game, then faced Wyoming in the championship.

The Trojans and the Pokes battled all night, and a Wyoming three just before the buzzer sent the game to OT. McLaughlin locked in, and nailed a left-handed layup with 4.5 seconds to go in overtime to win the tournament.

Now sitting at a No. 22 ranking, the Trojans are one of just six remaining undefeated teams in the nation (UCLA, Gonzaga, Villanova, Baylor, Creighton).

They put their unblemished record on the line tonight when they open up Pac-12 play at Oregon State and again on Thursday when they face the reigning conference champion Oregon Ducks.

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