LAS VEGAS — The Trojans defeated Eastern Washington at home and now face the No.11 Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational. The last time the Trojans were in Vegas, they defeated Kansas State in the first game of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
No urgency in the first half from the Trojans
USC received news a few days ago that Bronny James is close to returning to the court, but unfortunately, it didn’t help the Trojans in the first half of the game against Gonzaga. Gonzaga started the game with a 15-2 run, while USC missed seven of their first eight shots. However, as the game progressed, USC’s defense improved, and they started making crucial shots to get back into the game. Despite the early struggles, USC managed to slow down the game in the middle of the first half.
Boogie Ellis had an outstanding performance against Eastern Washington as he managed to shoot well from behind the arc in the first half. Although Ellis did a great job in terms of shooting, the Trojans couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs, who managed to make 54.5% of their shots from behind the arc in the first half, while the Trojans only made 30.8%. Despite trailing by as much as 14 points during the first half, Ellis played a pivotal role in helping his team catch up, taking most of the shots for his team.
The Bulldogs displayed a solid defense by consistently applying double teams to the ball whenever Collier and Johnson posted up, resulting in other players being forced to take shots. Collier seemed to have found his footing in the game, with zero turnovers in the first half. He demonstrated improved playmaking capabilities by taking better care of the ball, slowing down the pace, and allowing himself to better observe the court and make the right decisions.
The Trojans struggled to defend against the Bulldogs’ big men in the first half as they relied heavily on zone defense. Many of the defenders kept their hands down, resulting in an inability to stop the Bulldogs’ explosive offense.
USC couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs
As the second half began, USC found themselves struggling to keep up with the Bulldogs’ fast-paced offense and their ability to make difficult shots. Starting slow against a team as strong as Gonzaga is simply not good enough to compete at their level. Despite the scoring and rebounding efforts of USC forward Arriten Page, the team was unable to hold back the Bulldogs’ dominance.
During the game, Gonzaga utilized a seven-man rotation and allowed Braden Huff and Ben Gregg to come off the bench and take control. USC struggled to box out and at times, their players seemed to just stand around, which gave Gonzaga an opportunity to take a 16-point lead late in the second half. Kobe Johnson had a difficult time on both offense and defense, and with him not performing at his usual level, it was challenging for USC to keep up with the Bulldogs.
In the second half of the game, USC failed to make a single three-point shot until Ellis finally hit one with less than three minutes remaining. The Trojans struggled to make jump shots throughout the game, managing to make only 5 out of 21 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Gonzaga had a better performance with 12 out of 22 three-point shots made, especially during crucial moments.
Last game, USC managed to score 106 points against Eastern Washington, but were only able to score 76 points against the Bulldogs due to their inability to make any open threes. It was a disappointing performance from both teams. The Trojans’ players Hornery and Rodman were non-factors in the game, looking out of sync when given opportunities. Consistency has been an issue for the Trojans, as head coach Andy Enfield has noted in postgame interviews over the last few games.
In the game, USC struggled to rebound effectively and gave up 14 offensive rebounds, leading to a 39-33 deficit in rebounds. Although the Trojans forced Gonzaga to commit 13 turnovers, they were unable to convert them into points due to missed opportunities. The Bulldogs dominated throughout the game, leading by as much as 18 points. USC used ten players, while Gonzaga only used seven, with six of them scoring in double digits. Gonzaga G Dusty Stromer, who attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, had an impressive performance, scoring 15 points and hitting 4 out of 9 three-point shots.
Despite only two players, Collier and Ellis, scoring in double digits in the game, Ellis was the highest scorer with 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, shooting 11 out of 20 from the field. He continues to play exceptionally well, but his team’s lack of support makes it difficult for them to compete with top teams. On a positive note, Arrinten Page demonstrated great potential in tonight’s game, scoring 9 points and grabbing 4 rebounds, shooting 4 out of 7 from the field.
Bronny is eyeing return, while Collier cleans up his game
Early in the season, turnovers were a major concern for Collier during games, but he has shown significant improvement in the last two games. In the latest game, he scored 14 points, made 6 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds while shooting 6 of 14 from the field. Although Collier has a great shooting stroke, it is quite surprising that he only attempted one three pointer throughout the game. The most significant improvement for Collier so far was his turnover rate; he only had one during the game and had only two in the win over Eastern Washington as he had average around six turnovers per game.
On the court, he has an impressive vision, but only when he is under control and makes the right plays. He has been the talk of the town in college basketball and is expected to be the number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. His body build and strength give him an advantage over all other guards in college. Patience is essential for Collier as his game will improve significantly when Bronny James returns. Collier seems to be playing under intense pressure both on and off the court. Although Johnson and Ellis are other ball handlers on this team, it’s not their strongest suit. The potential of having James’ playmaking and scoring ability available will not only be good for Collier but also for the whole team.
Bronny James, son of NBA legend LeBron James, has been cleared to return to practices as the James family put out a statement earlier this week. James’ health scare was a major concern for his family, fans, and teammates. However, he has been receiving the best medical care and is expected to make a full recovery.
James was a highly regarded prospect when he graduated from Sierra Canyon, and his absence has been greatly felt by the USC team. Fans are eagerly anticipating his debut in a collegiate game, as well as LeBron James, who announced earlier this week that he will miss playing in an NBA game to watch his son make his college debut. However, there is currently no word on when James will make his debut.