The USC Trojans are embarking on a three-game road trip starting on Saturday. The first game of the road trip will be against the Colorado Buffaloes, and it will mark the first career start for Bronny James. Unfortunately, Isaiah Collier will be out for the next 4-6 weeks due to a right hand injury, as announced on Thursday. In addition, Boogie Ellis also missed Saturday’s game due to a hamstring injury.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Sellers takes over the first half
USC played this game without two of their starting guards and looked a lot different compared to their last game against Washington State. The first half was dominated by Oziyah Sellers who scored 16 points and 2 rebounds, shooting 6 for 11 from the field. This was a significant improvement for Sellers who had not scored above five points in any of the previous six games.
USC’s offense was efficient in the first half, shooting 47% from the field, while Colorado only managed 31%. USC’s bench contributed 19 points scored in the first half as 16 came from Sellers, and their defense held Colorado’s bench to zero points.
James made his first career start and though he didn’t score any points in the first half, his defense played a crucial role in his team’s performance. James put pressure on Colorado’s guards and was very active on the perimeter. He finished the first half 0 for 3 from the field, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist. Meanwhile, Kobe Johnson scored 5 points, grabbed 2 rebounds, and made 2 assists. It seemed like Colorado was not prepared for USC’s offense to come out and make shots as their defense appeared to be unprepared in the first half.
Cody Williams from Colorado scored 8 points and grabbed 2 rebounds to lead his team in scoring. However, due to the great defense played by the Trojans, the Buffaloes had a hard time scoring, shooting only 2 out of 10 from behind the arc and 9 out of 29 from the field. Colorado seemed to be out of sync, while USC only turned the ball over four times in the first half.
At halftime, USC was leading 37-24. Despite the absence of their two top guards, Andy Enfield must have been pleased with how his team performed. The Trojans played cohesively and relied on the energy of their young players, who made smart decisions on the court.
Not the second half USC expected
The Trojans played a great first half but allowed the Buffaloes to dominate them in the second half. Unfortunately, Johnson was unable to rally his team as he was one of the only leaders on the court. Vincent Iwuchukwu did his best as the only big man out there, with Joshua Morgan still out sick for his second straight game. Iwuchukwu put in a solid defensive performance, but it wasn’t enough to secure a win for his team.
In the game, USC initially held a lead of 16 points during the first half. However, in the second half, the Buffaloes quickly took control and went on a 24-8 run in the first ten minutes, allowing them to take the lead at 48-45. While Sellers had a strong start in the first half, he struggled to score in the second half, only managing to get his first points with 7:43 seconds left in the game.
With only 3:25 seconds left in the game, USC was down by 5 points, despite having a double digit lead during the beginning of the second half. Johnson was not able to contribute much to his team’s efforts, only scoring 10 points in the game. Although Johnson has the potential to turn the game around, he was unable to do so on Saturday. The team’s inconsistency throughout the season has been a major issue, as they now have a record of below .500.
The Trojans didn’t pass the ball much and committed too many turnovers, which resulted in Colorado scoring 21 fast-break points. USC made 14 turnovers in the game, which is a significant increase from the first half where they only made 4. J’Vonne Hadley from Colorado scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, becoming one of the main contributors to their win in the second half. The Buffaloes played with only seven players, but still managed to beat the Trojans.
Late in the game, Colorado managed to pull ahead by 10 points, ending a three-game losing streak. Eddie Lampkin Jr. had an impressive second half, finishing with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Another notable player for Colorado was Tristan Da Silva, who contributed 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists to help secure their win against USC. Hornery and James were the only two USC players who failed to score any points in the game.
Latest on Collier and Ellis as they plan to return to the court
The Trojans clearly missed the impact of Collier and Ellis in the second half of the game, resulting in a loss of 68-58. Their playmaking ability was sorely lacking, which made the team look disappointing. James played the point in the game at times, which took him away from trying to score. Collier’s absence will be felt for the next few weeks since his defense and scoring abilities will be missed.
Collier, had a fracture in his right hand’s second metacarpal during the game against Washington State. He underwent surgery at Keck Medical Center on Thursday to repair it. Collier is expected to be out of the game for four to six weeks. He had started every game this season and had an average of 15.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in USC’s first 16 games. Collier is ranked fifth in scoring average among Division I freshmen, fifth in free throws made (57), and tied for third in total assists (66) among freshmen players.
Ellis has suffered a hamstring injury and his status for Wednesday’s game against the Wildcats is uncertain. During the Trojans’ loss against Washington State, Ellis re-aggravated his hamstring. As the team’s leading scorer and captain, his presence is vital, and without him, USC could be in trouble this season.
James’ minute restriction has been lifted, and he will be a full participant for the rest of the season. I’ve mentioned previously that James should start due to his excellent defensive skills. He proved my point in the first half with his outstanding defensive performance.
USC will face the Wildcats on Wednesday, who are a strong offensive team with an average of 92.6 points per game. They have scored more than 100 points in four games this season and have an unbeaten record of 8-0 at home this season. In addition, they have only lost two games at the McKale Center over the past three seasons. USC has lost the last five games against the Wildcats.