BERKELEY, Calif. — The USC Trojans traveled to Berkeley to play against the Golden Bears in their first sell-out game in seven years. On Wednesday, USC announced that Isaiah Collier had been activated for the first time since undergoing surgery on his hand in early January.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Not a pretty first half for the Trojans
The Trojans were able to break their six-game losing streak last Saturday against Oregon State. With Isaiah Collier back on the court, the team seems to have found a good rhythm. Collier checked into the game early in the first half, which is good news for the team. Arrinten Page and Joshua Morgan had a good start to the game and played well on both ends of the court. They were able to get the team going offensively and also played some great defense. However, the Golden Bears proved to be a tough opponent, and Fardaws Aimaq and Jalen Cone were able to capitalize on the Trojans’ defense which made things difficult for them in the first half.
With 3:40 remaining in the first half, the Golden Bears had taken a commanding 36-25 lead, thanks to 14 points from Cone and 10 points from Aimaq. However, Enfield’s rotations were causing inconsistency for the Trojans, who were getting dominated in the rebound battle, down 20-6 late in the first half. The Trojans’ continued losing streak had been plagued by consistent issues with rebounding, and players were being threatened with reduced playing time or being benched. Kobe Johnson was one of the players affected by this, having only scored two points and committed one turnover in the first half, resulting in his benching alongside Vincent Iwuchukwu.
Boogie Ellis has been hampered by a hamstring injury, which has affected his performance for the team. In the first half, Ellis only scored three points, going 1 for 3 from the field. Meanwhile, Collier returned to the court but struggled, going 0 for 3 from the field with just one rebound and one assist. James had a better half, scoring five points and contributing two rebounds and one assist. It was encouraging to see James confidently make both of his free throws. LeBron James also made the trip up to Berkeley to watch the game as he prepares to face the Denver Nuggets in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
DJ Rodman has been one of the most reliable players for the Trojans this season, as he has consistently performed well on the court. Rodman scored 7 points and made 3 out of 4 field goal attempts in the first half. The road this season has been challenging for USC, as coach Enfield has had to contend with numerous injuries and illnesses within the team. Consequently, he has had to use 10 different starting lineups. During the game, LeBron James was seen coaching some of the USC players, and at one point, he was providing Iwuchukwu with some valuable basketball knowledge on the bench.
Collier found his rhythm in the 2nd half
In the second half, the Trojans switched to a zone defense, but the Golden Bears had no trouble scoring against it. Cal managed to build a lead of 16 points, but then USC woke up and held Cal scoreless for five minutes. This helped them reduce the lead to just six points. Collier had a slow start to the game, but he became more aggressive and scored his first points by driving to the basket and getting fouled, which allowed him to complete a three-point play. Shortly after, he drove to the basket again and scored while getting fouled once more.
Oziyah Sellers had been performing exceptionally well in his previous games, but he couldn’t replicate that success in his hometown game as he remained scoreless. However, as the game progressed, the Trojans put in more effort, and Collier attempted to lead his team in the latter half. USC managed to stage an impressive comeback and narrowed the lead to 58-52 with 6:06 remaining in the game.
Collier was impressive on the offensive end, making it difficult for any backcourt to stop him when he’s coming at full speed. USC also did an excellent job of taking care of the ball, with only six turnovers in the game. They controlled the paint by scoring 38 points below the basket compared to Cal’s 24 points. Additionally, the Trojans had eight blocks in the game, with Morgan collecting four of them.
Jaylon Tyson played a crucial role in the Golden Bears’ success in the second half of the game, shooting efficiently from the floor and was 10 for 15 from the field and scoring 27 points total. Although Cone and Aimaq slowed down in the second half, they still contributed to the team’s performance. Cone scored 20 points, while Aimaq scored 15 points.
As the game progressed, it became more exciting, with USC narrowing the lead down to 66-62 with only 1 minute and 56 seconds left in the game. Although Ellis had struggled throughout the game, only scoring six points on 2 of 7 shooting, he was still out there battling on both sides of the ball. In the last minute of the second half, the Trojans managed to force overtime in an attempt to steal a win on the road.
Collier forces overtime against the Golden Bears
In the overtime period, USC appeared to be highly focused and determined to win the game. This was particularly evident when Collier took charge of the team’s performance upon his return to the court. His presence seemed to have an energizing effect on the team, as they played with greater intensity and purpose than before. He seemed to be a key player in helping the team gain an edge over their opponents and had a noticeable impact on the game’s outcome.
Despite their best efforts, the Trojans were ultimately unable to secure the win. In the end, they fell short, but it was not for lack of trying. The team played with remarkable skill and determination throughout the game, and Collier’s return was certainly a factor in their improved performance.
Cone made a three-pointer that gave Cal a 78-74 lead with only 49 seconds left in overtime. Johnson then found Rodman open in the corner for a wide-open three-point shot, right in front of his teammates. Moments later, Collier had an open lane to the basket but missed the shot. He thought he was fouled, but the game was over at that point. The Golden Bears managed to survive in overtime with an 83-77 win over USC, snapping an 11-game losing streak against the Trojans.
It’s sometimes good to see your team put up a good fight in a game, even if they end up losing. For the Trojans, it was a positive sign to see Collier play aggressively on the offensive end and score all of his 20 points in the second half and overtime. James also contributed with five points, five rebounds, and one assist. Although he briefly played in overtime, he was quickly substituted for Ellis, as Enfield tried to bring his captain back into the game.
Only two USC players, Rodman and Collier, managed to score in double digits during the game. However, USC struggled with their free throws, shooting only 15 out of 24 from the line. Despite this, Collier managed to score 12 out of his 16 free throws, making it challenging for Cal’s defense to contain him. Unfortunately, no USC player was able to secure more than ten rebounds, and they lost the rebounding battle, with only 27 rebounds compared to Cal’s 54. Not the best we’ve seen from the Trojans but we can only see improvement coming from this loss.
USC will face Stanford on Saturday night in pursuit of their 10th win of the season. After Collier’s impressive performance, it is highly likely that he will be in the starting lineup moving forward. Sellers might be the player to move back to the bench and Johnson is expected to stay on the bench.