LOS ANGELES — The USC Trojans have won only two out of their last seven games as they took care of the California Golden Bears at the Galen Center. Bronny James, who recently returned to the court, played his second home game on Wednesday. The Trojans faced a challenge but were able to secure a victory over Cal, 82-74.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
USC stars have a terrific first half
In the recent games, USC’s offense has been struggling to compete at a high level. However, on Wednesday night, they finally showed improvement. Isaiah Collier managed to score 7 points through three field goals against Oregon State, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to secure a victory on the road. Collier had a great start against the Golden Bears, scoring 9 points, and providing 5 assists through four made field goals. He was quick on his feet and passed the ball effectively to his teammates. In fact, he even managed to pull off a fantastic lob to Bronny James, who slammed it home in the first half.
James had a perfect half, shooting 3 for 3 and scoring a total of 6 points in 8 minutes of play. He is continuously improving on the court, despite being on a minutes restriction. Boogie Ellis put up 8 points on 4 of 6 from the field, maintaining his position as the most consistent player for the Trojans. DJ Rodman has been playing well over the last few games, shooting the ball well from behind the arc. It will be very hard for head coach Andy Enfield to replace Rodman in the starting line up when James is allowed to play more minutes. Rodman made two threes in the first half while being disrupted on defense against the Golden Bears.
During the first half, Cal’s Jaylon Tyson played a great game, scoring 10 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, and giving 2 assists on 5 of 8 shots. Keonte Kennedy and Jalen Celestine contributed 5 points each for the Golden Bears. USC’s defense was strong and forced 8 turnovers in the first half, allowing only 4 points from the bench. Collier, James, and Joshua Morgan attacked the basket, producing 18 points in the paint. Despite Cal’s 40% shooting from the field and 23.1% from three, USC’s defense held them back, providing the Trojans with an 8 point lead at halftime.
Coach Enfield finds a way to steal the win
The USC Trojans entered the game as favorites with a point spread of -8.5. However, they only managed to take an 8-point lead into halftime and winning by 8. In the first half, Johnson did not have a great game, but he improved significantly in the second half. He tied his career-high with 4 three-pointers and looked more focused and confident than he had in the past few games. By the end of the game, he had scored 14 points, 6 rebounds and made 4 assists.
Johnson improved his performance in the game, but USC’s Harrison Hornery also contributed with six points. However, Hornery has not scored in double digits in the last 10 games, despite playing an average of 18.1 minutes per game. The only time he scored over 10 points this season was in November against UC Irvine, when he scored 17 points. Although he is one of the tallest players on the team, standing at 6’10, he has the ability to shoot from distance and grab rebounds as Enfield has mentioned in the past.
James had another impressive game against the Golden Bears, scoring 10 points and collecting 3 assists and 2 rebounds. This comes after he achieved a career-high against Oregon State on Saturday night. He looks very comfortable on the court and has been showing steady improvement since his return. It won’t be long before James earns a spot in the starting line-up.
Kennedy and Tyson made a late run with five minutes left, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Trojans in their home court. In the loss to USC, Kennedy scored 13 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and had 1 assist. Tyson was impressive, making 10 of 16 shots from the field, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. The second half turned out to be much better for the Golden Bears, as they shot 9 of 18 from the three-point line and made a total of 12 of 31 in the game. Cal’s defense forced 13 turnovers in total against the Trojans, with no player on the team having more than 2 turnovers.
During the second half of the game, USC made 53.8% of their three-point shots. This played a crucial role in the team’s second win in the last seven games. However, the Trojans only managed to score 7 free throws in the entire game, as they have had difficulty converting their free throws in the past. Rodman contributed 11 points and 3 rebounds, making 3 of 6 shots from behind the arc. USC also achieved a total of 29 assists, which is just one short of the school’s record.
Kobe carries the Trojans to victory
During Wednesday night’s game, Johnson’s performance was remarkable. Although he didn’t score any points in the first half, he made a comeback in the second half by scoring 14 points on 4 out of 7 three-point shots, and also contributed 5 assists. However, the Trojans’ current record of 7-7 is disappointing, considering the high expectations the team had at the start of the season. Johnson felt the pressure lifted from his shoulders after making his first three-point shot in the second half.
Johnson discussed his need to be more aggressive on offense in order to help his team succeed, and his willingness to hold himself accountable for his performance.
“Staying in the gym and keeping my confidence up, these past few games everyone has seen I haven’t been hitting my shots but I have people around me and i’ve kept the confidence within myself.” Johnson says after the 82-74 win over Cal.
Coach Enfield told The Sporting Tribune that Johnson’s performance was something he wasn’t really surprised to see as he tied his career high in three-pointers made during the second half of the game.
“He finally started to make open shots and played outstanding. He was terrific in the second half.” Enfield said postgame.
Johnson is excited to play against Stanford at the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon. He plans to continue his strong play during the upcoming home games.
Enfield made a key note after the game, stating that he plans to tighten his rotation and only play players who don’t turn the ball over often and can make open shots. James is seen as a good fit for this role and Enfield will re-evaluate his position when James’ minute restriction is lifted.
The next game for the Trojans, who currently have a record of 7-7, will be on Saturday afternoon at 1pm at the Galen Center. They will be hosting Stanford, who are coming off a 59-53 win against UCLA on Wednesday night.