LOS ANGELES– The USC Trojans had a good win against the California Golden Bears last Wednesday night. Despite facing several challenges throughout the season, the team managed to secure two consecutive home-game wins and are looking forward to getting back on track.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Kobe and Boogie takeover in the first half
During the first half of the game, the Trojans performed exceptionally well, delivering one of their best performances this season. Boogie Ellis, Kobe Johnson, and Isaiah Collier played a significant role in scoring 37 of the 39 points made by USC. Ellis was the standout player for the first half with 17 points, scoring 5 out of 7 three-pointers and 6 out of 9 shots from the field. Johnson continued his great form from the last game, contributing 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Collier also played well, scoring 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist while shooting 50% from the field. The team’s success depends on the decision-making of Johnson and Ellis, as they both need to perform at a high level to get the team going.
Andy Enfield has recently emphasized the need to make changes to the starting lineup based on the team’s level of aggressiveness and awareness on the court. He is not happy with the way the players are standing around without moving properly and turning the ball over from time to time. Enfield has reached the point where he feels that changes need to be made.
During the first half of the game, USC made 8 out of 15 three-point shots, giving them a 39-35 lead at halftime. However, the Trojans struggled with free throws, only making one out of five attempts. Bronny James played for nine minutes in the first half but failed to score any points, going 0 for 3 from three-point range, 0 for 4 from the field, and missing two free throws. On the defensive side, James has been terrific, while some players are late on rotations and this has been a factor in USC’s struggles to stop opponents from scoring.
In the first half of the game, Stanford’s Michael Jones and Brandon Angel scored a total of 21 points. USC had a hard time stopping Angel as he dominated the inside. Stanford had a total of eight turnovers, while USC only had four. Collier has been playing better by turning the ball over less and being more aggressive on both offense and defense. In the first half, only Collier, Johnson, Ellis, and Kijani Wright scored for the Trojans, making it a four-man team.
Another explosive half for the Trojans
The Trojans scored only 39 points in the first half of the game. However, in the second half, they managed to score 54 points, and Collier contributed 18 points out of the 54. In the last ten games, Collier has not scored more than 15 points in a single game, and he has been struggling with securing the ball and making the right plays for his team. However, on Saturday, Collier had a breakthrough as he finished with a career-high of 26 points, four assists, and three rebounds in just 29 minutes.
After the game, USC head coach Andy Enfield mentioned that Collier has shown improvement on both sides of the ball in the last two games.
“He was suggesting what plays to run, suggesting different actions,” said Enfield postgame on Collier. “I think when you have your players understanding what’s working and what’s not, it’s a huge benefit for a coach.”
As things stand, it looks like Collier is moving in the right direction and James is regaining his rhythm. Come February, after plenty of practice and game time, the team will be truly formidable. The lineup that USC seems to be most effective with is Collier, Ellis, Johnson, Rodman, and Morgan. This combination provides size, athleticism, and shooting ability, which allows the team to compete with the best in the country.
Rodman had a game total of 9 points, 3 rebounds and made 2 out of 5 attempts from behind the arc. Although there are many things that Rodman does on the court which may not be reflected on the stats sheet, it is a fact that he played a crucial role and it will be difficult to replace him from the starting line up once James is ready to take control after his minute restriction is lifted.
Johnson’s performance was outstanding in the win over Stanford as he contributed 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Johnson made no turnovers in the game, and was remarkable in making plays and shooting 9 out of 18 from the field.
Vincent Iwuchukwu only played for 7 minutes in the game and scored 4 points along with 2 rebounds. On the other hand, Joshua Morgan played exceptionally well on both offense and defense. He collected 4 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Coach Enfield made a strategic decision to play a smaller line up with Morgan being the biggest player for the Trojans throughout the game. This allowed the Trojans to be quicker on defense, resulting in 13 steals and 25 points off turnovers. USC also scored 34 points in the paint and 20 fast break points in the game.
Bronny James improving, while not making a field goal
On Saturday afternoon, James played in front of his father, LeBron James, who arrived just before the game began. Since James is still under a minute restriction, he has been playing for an average of 16-19 minutes per game since returning to the court. Although he still needs time to develop his skills, he doesn’t hesitate to put his body through the rigors of the game.
Late in the first half, James anticipated that Stanford would call a timeout. However, he did not give up on the play. Instead, he took a charge at mid-court, which got the Galen Center crowd going wild. Even on a Saturday afternoon, there were thousands of fans in attendance, cheering on the Trojans.
“That was a great play, guy was coming full speed so he just stepped in, put his chest in there and I thought that was very smart.” said Enfield on James’ taking the charge.
James scored two points on two free throws in the game, helping the Trojans win their second consecutive home game. Despite missing all four of his field goal attempts, he persevered on defense and did not let his poor offensive performance affect his overall game.
“He took the right shots, played outstanding defense and he’s a big part of our team.” said Enfield on James’ performance.
As he rebounds and pushes the ball up the court, he puts major pressure on the defense, allowing Ellis and Johnson to run with him and make plays for the team. He made 2 out of 5 free throws while his father was present during the game, and he too missed a pair of free throws in last night’s game against Memphis. Making free throws has been a concern for the team. At one point during the game, even Enfield expressed his frustration and wished he could put on a jersey and make the free throws for his team. He stated that he was a great shooter during his playing days.
“I usually think about, if i could get myself in a jersey real quick and substitute myself in, but that usually doesn’t work. My hair is a little to silver and gray for that.” said Enfield postgame on his team’s shooting struggles from the line.
James has played six games for USC and is currently averaging 16.8 minutes and 7.5 points per game. He is making the most of his time on the court by collecting 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. James’s strength lies in his shooting ability, as he is shooting 50% from the field, 77.8% from the free-throw line, and 31.6% from behind the arc.
The Washington State Cougars visit the Trojans on January 10th, as both teams split games last season. USC has won the previous seven games against the Cougars at the Galen Center. The Trojans are now 8-7 in the season after going 1-5 in the month of December.