Collier lifts the Trojans over the Utes, 68-64, picking up their 10th win

The USC Trojans secure their 10th home win of the season against the Utah Utes, 68-64. Collier leads the team with 15 points and 6 assists.

LOS ANGELES — The Trojans have returned home after losing eight out of their last nine games. They took on Utah Thursday on national television. There’s been lots of changes as of late but Andy Enfield is trying to improve the team’s performance by making some adjustments to the starting lineup. He has decided to include the struggling Kobe Johnson back in the starting lineup.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

The Trojans controlled the Utes in the first half

Enfield made a bold decision to remove Bronny James from the starting lineup, despite his good performances over the last few games. Johnson made a good start by scoring the first four points of the game. Last Saturday, the Trojans played poorly and allowed Stanford to go on a 25-0 run, which was embarrassing. However, the team had a different mindset on Thursday night and started with a 16-6 run. The return of Isaiah Collier to the court has certainly helped the team’s offense to look better on the court.

The Utah Utes couldn’t score any three-pointers in the first half and were losing 24-11 with 7:33 to go. The Trojans were playing well by forcing five turnovers and defending the paint. Johnson scored seven points early in the game, but he couldn’t do much to help his team as they lost to Stanford in a blowout. Collier played a crucial role in the Trojans’ early success by scoring and setting up his teammates on the court.

Deivon Smith scored 13 points in the first half, shooting four out of six from the field. Keba Keita also contributed to the team’s performance with his aggressive play on both offense and defense, collecting six points and two rebounds. Despite falling behind by 13 points, Utah finished the first half strong and managed to reduce the score difference to 34-29, with the Trojans still in the lead.

Rodman and Ellis both finished the first half with five points each. The Trojans shot a combined 4-14 from behind the three-point line. James scored three points as he came off a screen from the top of the key and made the shot. He only took one shot and played for seven minutes in the half. Iwuchukwu and Kijani Wright both scored two points each. The Trojans could have taken control of the game if they didn’t allow the Utes to outrebound them 21-16. Johnson sat for only one minute in the first half and played the most minutes for USC.

USC manages to avoid another loss in the 2nd half

The USC Trojans were 1.5 point favorites against the Utah Utes. This was the first time in a while that USC was favored. Joshua Morgan started the game and played aggressively, but was unable to defend the paint for the Trojans. During the second half, Utah dominated the inside and continued to play well with Smith leading the way. Smith scored 7 of 8 from the free throw line, taking advantage of the USC defenders’ tendency to foul. He managed to trim USC’s lead to 49-48 with 13:23 remaining in the game.

During the game, Cole Bajema scored his first points by hitting a three-pointer, which gave his team the lead for the first time in the second half with a score of 51-49. USC performed well in the first half, but they suddenly struggled in the second half, trying to take control of the game. Branden Carlson contributed nine points, which helped the Utes take the lead midway through the game against USC. Ellis was called for an offensive foul while attempting a fadeaway three-pointer right in front of his bench.

During the game, USC regained control and took a 58-51 lead with 8:26 remaining. It was exciting to watch James play defense as he took multiple charges and deflections that improved his team’s performance in the second half. Wright and Morgan also played tough defense down the stretch, blocking and rebounding the ball. Johnson finally scored his first points of the second half on a fast break pass by Collier. Despite struggling in the game, Johnson was attacking the boards and trying to make things happen for his team.

During the game, James managed to get the crowd excited with his offensive board that led to an open drive towards the basket. This gave his team a 64-58 lead late in the game. However, it became difficult for the Trojans to maintain their lead as Utah managed to reduce it to 66-64 with only 33 seconds remaining.

The USC Trojans managed to secure a 68-64 victory against the Utah Utes, with 10 steals and 6 blocks to their credit. The game was intense, with Gabe Madsen turning over the ball in the final 17 seconds, leading to the Trojans’ win. Both teams showed great effort and determination, but ultimately, USC’s heart and skill helped them get the win. With this victory, the Trojans earned their 10th win of the season, with Collier contributing 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Collier’s contributions helped to maintain a fast tempo, allowing the Trojans to collect 15 fastbreak points, compared to the Utes’ 8 points.

Rodman scored 12 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and made 4 assists. On the other hand, Ellis scored 11 points, but he had a poor shooting performance, making only 4 out of 14 shots from the field and 1 out of 9 shots from beyond the arc. The Trojans made 4 out of 14 three-pointers in the first half but then struggled in the second half, making only 1 out of 11 three-pointers. Despite this, they still managed to win the game. Morgan contributed 7 points and 2 rebounds and also blocked a game-high of 4 shots.

After the game, during the press conference with Collier and Morgan, Collier praised Morgan’s performance and called him the best shot blocker in the country. This was after Morgan made a game-winning block on Smith during the game’s final moments. Morgan has been averaging 2.3 blocks per game this season.

After the performance, I asked Collier how he was feeling since returning for his third game after injury. He smiled as he answered.

“I’m feeling great, feel like i’m in the best shape of my life.” said Collier after the 68-64 win over Utah.

Collier is focused on defense late in the season

The Trojans are thrilled to have Collier back for his third game, especially since it’s his first home game since his injury on January 10th. Enfield has emphasized how much Collier’s absence affected the team over the last month and is looking forward to seeing him play late in the season to help elevate the team’s performance. After the win, Enfield mentioned that Collier’s injury had a significant impact on the team’s offensive performance. Before the injury, they were averaging 78 points per game, but that number drastically decreased to 63 without him in the lineup.

Jame was replaced by Johnson in the starting lineup. However, Johnson only scored two points in the second half. Enfield discussed James’ performance on Thursday night.

“I thought he played great, smart player. He had struggled with shooting and we want him to shoot the open shots but as you saw tonight, he can effect winning in a variety of ways and he did that.” said Enfield postgame.

Collier spoke about the intense practice sessions that the team has had over the last three days. He also credited his teammates for their contribution in securing a huge win at home on Thursday. I inquired how Collier plans to contribute to the team in the later part of the season to help improve the current season’s narrative.

“Staying locked in on defense. As a team I feel like we can become a great defensive team late in the season.” said Collier postgame.

The USC offense has been performing well lately, scoring an average of 75.7 points per game since Collier’s return. This is the healthiest the Trojans have been since the start of the season. With six games left in the regular season, three at home and three on the road, USC will face Colorado at the Galen Center on Saturday night. The Buffaloes lost to UCLA on Thursday night. USC lost to Colorado 68-58 on January 13th since Ellis, Collier and Morgan were not available to play in that game.