TUCSON, Ariz.– The Trojans are in the middle of a three game road trip coming off a loss in Boulder a few days ago. The No. 12 Wildcats hosted the Trojans, who are playing another game without Boogie Ellis.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Bronny has his best half of the year
Boogie Ellis is currently suffering from a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play during the upcoming road trip. As a result, James has been given the opportunity to start as the point guard. After failing to score against Colorado, James had an outstanding first half in Tucson. He managed to score 9 points on 4 of 6 shots against a strong defensive team. The transformation he is undergoing is remarkable to witness. His best is yet to come.
As the point guard, James experiences a lot of pressure to make plays for his team, especially since they are short-handed. He had three assists to go with his nine points as he kept USC in the battle as they only trailed by 10 points heading into the locker room. Arizona finished the half on a 8-2 run which was a huge blow to how great the Trojans played early on.
Kobe Johnson struggled with his efficiency early on but still managed to score 7 points, make 3 assists, and 2 steals on 2 of 9 shooting from the field. Although he has been going through a rough patch lately, Johnson is giving his all on the court. Arizona had a slow start in the first half against the Trojans as they entered being 20.5-point underdog against Arizona. However, the Wildcats managed to shoot 46.2% from beyond the arc, which proved troublesome for USC as they struggled to rotate quickly on defense. USC’s head coach, Andy Enfield, utilized zone defense after made baskets and man-to-man defense after missed baskets, which caused confusion for Johnson and James. They both got mixed up on the baseline, which led to a three-pointer by Caleb Love.
Love had an impressive career playing for North Carolina, but he is currently having an even better season with Arizona, his new team. He played for North Carolina for three years and during that time he averaged 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. However, in his first year with Arizona, he is currently averaging a career-high of 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. In the first half Love scored 9 points, making all three of his shots from behind the arc and he also had 3 assists. Love’s exceptional skills have made him a game changer for the Wildcats, which is why they are currently ranked No. 12 in the country.
Consistency becomes a problem for USC in the 2nd half
During the first half of the game, the Trojans were only trailing by ten points against Arizona. However, Arizona continued their strong performance in the second half and took control of the game as they led, 57-43, with 14:20 remaining. USC’s Joshua Morgan returned to the court after missing a few games due to an illness. Unfortunately, the second half did not go as planned for the Trojans, and the Wildcats capitalized on their advantage of having a short-handed opponent.
During the game against Arizona, Keshad Johnson proved to be a major challenge for the USC team. He hit shots from all angles and was difficult to defend against. The USC team made several defensive errors that allowed the Wildcats to score easy layups throughout the game. Arizona’s pressure on the offense led to a number of turnovers. The Trojans struggled to defend without fouling, and at one point, three players had four fouls each. Arizona had a total of 15 steals during the game against USC.
DJ Rodman put in a valiant effort for his team, scoring 16 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in the loss to the Wildcats on Wednesday night. Rodman has been a great addition to the Trojans, performing well on both the offensive and defensive sides. In the game, the Trojans struggled to score with Johnson only managing to put up 12 points on 4 of 16 shooting from the field. Oziyah Sellers faced foul trouble in the first half but made a comeback in the second half, contributing a total of 10 points to the team’s effort.
Vincent Iwuchukwu managed to score only 6 points and grab 7 rebounds in the game. Unfortunately, he struggled to find his rhythm throughout the night and ended up with 4 fouls. The team has been facing inconsistency issues lately, and it is hoped that Coach Enfield can quickly turn things around once Ellis returns.
On Wednesday, Arizona outperformed USC with 21 offensive rebounds compared to USC’s 10. In their victory over USC with a score of 82-67 in Tucson, Love scored 20 points. Pelle Larsson played an important role in Arizona’s win, contributing 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
What’s next for the Trojans?
The Trojans suffered another loss due to a shortage of players. They are now gearing up to face Arizona State on Saturday afternoon. It is uncertain if Ellis will be playing, but it may be best to allow him to rest before they face UCLA next week. James has stepped up as a playmaker and scorer, as demonstrated in the game where he scored 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Some may overlook James’ talent, but it is evident in his performance on the court that he has what it takes to play in the NBA.
James has started for the Trojans in two consecutive games and is expected to continue for the next few weeks until Isaiah Collier recovers. Unfortunately, the Trojans’ chances of making it to the tournament are unlikely at this point. The team has a record of 8-10 in the season and 2-5 in the Pac-12, which is not up to the expectations set for such a talented team. Assuming Collier returns to the court, he may not have many games to play, and it’s likely that he will enter the NBA Draft. Although it’s not certain that he will return, it’s highly improbable.
The Trojans struggled with rebounding even with the return of Joshua Morgan who seemed out of rhythm after missing the last three games.
The Trojans are looking for ways to improve their performance on their current road trip and secure a win against Arizona State this Saturday afternoon. The Sun Devils, who are currently 10-7 in the season, are eager to welcome the Trojans after their recent loss to UCLA at home. Although ASU has won four out of their last five games, it won’t be an easy task for the Trojans to come out on top.