EUGENE, OR. — The Trojans won against Alabama State last week and are now gearing up for their first Pac-12 matchup of the season. However, the team has not performed up to their expectations so far, which has put the spotlight on head coach Andy Enfield.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Troubling first half raises concerns for the Trojans
It has been almost a week since the Trojans last played a game and it appears that they came out flat on the court. USC managed to score the first two points of the game, but the Ducks quickly followed up with 11 consecutive points. Enfield immediately called for a timeout after his team shot only 1 out of 6 attempts to start the game. Defense has been a recurring issue for the team throughout the season, and injuries have hampered Enfield’s ability to conduct practices with all his players available. As a result, it has been quite stressful for Enfield to maintain consistency on the court.
Vincent Iwuchukwu showed an impressive performance on both offense and defense for his team, but unfortunately, he was not able to score any points and only grabbed one rebound in the first half of the game. Boogie Ellis struggled with shooting the ball as he only made one out of seven attempts. However, Oziyah Sellers came into the game and provided the Trojans with a much-needed boost on offense, scoring five points with one three-pointer made in transition.
Bronny James is currently on a minute restriction, which means Enfield is having to play without his most improved defender recently. Despite this, James was able to make a significant impact in the game. He forced two turnovers on the Ducks and made a three-pointer on a fast break play. Due to his impressive playmaking and perimeter defensive skills, James has the potential to be the starting point guard. In the first half, James had three points, three rebounds, and two steals.
The USC Trojans were having a difficult time in the first half of their game, and by halftime, they were trailing 42-25. Frustration was evident on the faces of the Trojans as they made their way into the locker room. The team was in dire need of a boost of energy and motivation to turn things around in the second half.
Trojans found their energy but not enough to hold down the Ducks
In the first half, the Trojans didn’t perform well. However, in the second half, they came out strong with a 12-3 run. This run forced the Ducks to call a timeout. Kobe Johnson played a critical role in the second half by becoming more of a playmaker when Enfield needed him. His size advantage over the smaller guards helped him set a career-high record with nine assists in the game. Although Johnson struggled to shoot the ball and only collected seven points, his playmaking skills helped. He made only three out of eleven shots from the field and missed all of his five attempts from behind the arc.
During the game, they fell behind by as much as 18 points as they struggled with their free throw shooting, making only 61.5%, which has been a persistent issue this season. Despite this, Joshua Morgan, who has been a valuable asset on the defensive end throughout the season, stepped up on Thursday night and contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds with an impressive 6 out of 7 field goal attempts.
Enfield’s message to his team in the locker room had a significant impact on the game. The players were more motivated, diving on the floor for extra possessions and making better decisions on offense. However, fouling continues to be an issue for this team, as they committed 23 fouls compared to Oregon’s 12.
James had 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist in the game against the Ducks. Although the Trojans lost 82-74, Isaiah Collier and Boogie Ellis both made 4 field goals each and scored 11 points each. DJ Rodman played exceptionally well on both sides of the ball, while Joshua Morgan also had a good performance, and both players finished with 14 points each. The Trojans are now 6-6 in the season after opening conference play on Thursday night. Despite the team’s talent, their record of .500 this season is unacceptable.
Bill Walton compares Bronny James to K.C Jones
The basketball game was being nationally broadcasted on ESPN 2. Bill Walton, had a lot to share with his audience. He drew similarities between Bronny James and former Celtics point guard K.C Jones. It’s obvious with James on the court, the Trojans’ performance improved significantly on both offense and defense. However, once James left the court, the team struggled on both sides of the ball.
Walton recounted a story about the time Red Auerbach realized his mistake of not giving Jones more playing time. It seems that James is currently under a minutes restriction, which is why Enfield hasn’t been able to field him more often. The comparison Walton drew between James and Jones was quite intriguing. Auerbach played Jones more minutes, which resulted in winning championships, and later hired him in 1983 as the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
While sharing his remarkable stories, he also compared Jones to John Wooden.
“K.C Jones was the smartest, most kindest person and a great coach. He was the closest coach i ever had to John Wooden.”
James and Jones are both remarkably similar to LeBron James. Interestingly, many have noticed that the Lakers are better when James is present on the court. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the saying “like father, like son” holds true in this case.
On Saturday night, USC will play against Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon. On Thursday night, the Beavers lost to UCLA Bruins 69-62, bringing their season record to 8-4.