Despite Bronny James’ long-awaited debut, USC loses to Long Beach State

The Trojans have lost three of their last four games and are now 5-4 as they head to Auburn for their next game.

LOS ANGELES — The USC Trojans played against Long Beach State in their most important game of the year so far. Bronny James, who suffered cardiac arrest in July, made his debut in front of his family including, Lakers star LeBron James. The king arrived at the Galen Center just before the start of the game, after winning the In-Season Tournament in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

An exciting first half in front of a sold-out crowd

The atmosphere was electric in the arena as Bronny James made his debut with his father, LeBron James, and the rest of his family seated courtside. Isaiah Collier came out strong, displaying his skills as a playmaker and a scorer for his team. Collier has had a rough start to the season, struggling with turnovers in the initial few games. However, in the last two games, he has demonstrated better control on the court.

The Trojans struggled with their three-point shooting in the first half, making only 4 of 15 attempts. However, despite this, they still managed to lead by 15 points at halftime. When James entered the game, he immediately made an impact on the defensive end. He did not seem overwhelmed by the moment and made the biggest defensive play of the game which caused the arena to erupt. James, like his father, chased down a blocked shot that was sent a few rows back. In the first half, he only attempted one shot in five minutes of play. His defense was the highlight of his night as he disrupted others and the crowd was cheering him on.

In the first half, Boogie Ellis was not very efficient as he only made 2 out of 6 shots. On the other hand, Kobe Johnson only made 1 shot out of 2. Both Collier and Iwuchukwu had 10 points each. During the first half, USC had 20 points off turnovers and added 22 points in the paint.

DJ Rodman and Harrison Hornery struggled to find their rhythm during the game, which coach Enfield mentioned in his postgame interview. USC performed well in the first half with only 8 turnovers while successfully forcing 12 turnovers on defense. Despite leading by 15 points at halftime, they failed to maintain their momentum in the second half and came out flat.

Disappointing second half for USC

The Trojans had a disappointing performance in the second half and overtime. They only made one jump shot in overtime and shot only 36 percent from the field during the second half. USC struggled in many ways, which was a complete contrast to their strong performance in the first half where they led 45-30.

This USC team needs to incorporate free throw shooting into their regular practice routine, as they missed 16 free throws in the game. This led to an 84-79 loss in overtime, despite having multiple opportunities to secure a victory. In the final moments of the game, Ellis had a chance to score but chose to pass to Collier instead. This resulted in a late shot attempt that forced the game into overtime.

After the game, USC head coach Andy Enfield was asked if that was the designed play, and he was not afraid to speak his mind. One thing I’ve noticed about Enfield is that he will tell you how it is and not hold back.

“I don’t know why Boogie passed the ball,” Andy Enfield said after the game. “For whatever reason our leading scorer passed the ball with a second left.”

Ellis was unable to lead his team to victory against Long Beach State, but he did manage to score 14 points, make 4 assists and grab 3 rebounds in 41 minutes of play. Similarly, Collier also had a decent performance with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, although he made 5 out of 15 shots from the field. However, these performances may not be enough for the Trojans to compete at a high level with teams like Arizona, Purdue and Gonzaga, who they lost to a few games ago.

The Trojans faced issues with their defense. Despite that, Long Beach’s guard, Marcus Tsohonis, managed to hit the clutch shot that sent the game to overtime. Tsohonis played an outstanding game as he scored 23 points in the second half and overtime, leading his team to a win. He made 7 out of 14 shots from the field and 11 out of 13 free throws. In just 27 minutes, Tsohonis scored a game-high 28 points.

Enfield mentioned after the game that not a single starter has a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup. He said that the competition is wide open for whoever can play both defense and offense the right way. The team’s performance in practice will determine who gets to start. Maybe we will see a new starting lineup when they travel to play Auburn next week. Although the team had a strong start, Enfield was not impressed with their performance towards the end of the game. The second half is going to be hard to forget.

“Our starting unit came out and missed some wide open shots, they were flat on defense. I didn’t understand it because we had a great crowd, and we played so energetic in the first half.” said Enfield

Vincent Iwuchukwu was the standout player during their game on Sunday. He showcased an impressive performance on both ends of the court, playing formidable defense and scoring efficiently. Iwuchukwu finished the game with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist, shooting an impressive 7 out of 8 from the field. Despite his impressive performance, USC unfortunately suffered a tough loss.

“We didn’t get the job done, I have some things to fix on my end. I supposed to be a shot blocker and only had one block shot today. I turned the ball over twice, my turnover ratio is low.” said Iwuchukwu.

Bronny James makes his debut

It was a special day for basketball world as they witnessed the return of Bronny James to the court. From the beginning of the game until the end, all eyes were on him. The Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka, was present at the game to show his support to the James family. LeBron had earlier mentioned that even if the game would have clashed with a Lakers game, he would have still taken time out to attend his son’s match.

James only played 17 minutes due to a minute restriction, but his performance showed clear talent and the ability to compete at a high level.

“I thought he played well in those minutes.” said Enfield after the game.

During the postgame press conference, James was introduced and expressed his gratitude for being back on the court.

“I just want to say I’m thankful for everything, to the Mayo Clinic and everything they helped me with and my parents, siblings for supporting me through this hard time in my life.”

During the game, he only attempted three shots but he had an outstanding performance on the defensive side of the ball. Enfield was impressed with his ability to guard the opposing guards and slow them down. This is one of the reasons why Enfield is considering moving James to the starting line up soon. After the game, Enfield mentioned that no spot on the starting line up is secured, due to inconsistency on both offense and defense.

James made his first career shot with a three-pointer during transition, getting the crowd excited. Over the past month, I have seen James during pre-game warmups and practice sessions playing five-on-five, and he has looked great. He has been able to regain his fitness, and this allowed him to make his debut on Sunday.

“He’s built for this.” said Ellis on James handling the spotlight.

The USC Trojans are now 5-4 after losing three of their last four games, following a 4-1 start to the season. Next week, James and USC will be on the road against Auburn.

“We will continue to monitor that, that’s not my decision,” Enfield said.

The Trojans have a four-game road trip before returning home to face Cal in the first week of the new year. We will get an update from Enfield later this week during practice in regards James’ minute restrictions moving forward.