By Rich Ruben
Now we know what this team is capable of if they play at a high level over a full 40 minutes. The Trojans came into this game a slight underdog against a BYU team that was shooting at a very high level. The game was close for the first ten minutes but from that point the Trojans dominated on both ends and completed a 79-53 win. The lead was extended to 30 a few times in the second half before the Trojans stepped off the pedal and BYU made a few shots at the end of the game to decrease the final margin. USC made 32-60 shots and 43% from three. The Cougars were 19-69 (27%) and 23% from three.
The Trojans Played With Great Energy
From the beginning of the game it was obvious the Trojans came to play. The defensive pressure forced BYU into taking difficult threes and the Trojans bigs dominated the paint even though the Cougars matched the Trojan size and their center is 7’3” Purdue grad transfer Matt Haarms. At the half the Trojans led by 11 and BYU was not out of the game. The lead quickly grew to 17 early in the second half and continued to increase. Drew Peterson had 13 points at the half and Evan Mobley was 4-6 from the field with 9 boards. From the outset Evan played with much more energy than in the first two games and was looking to score when he got the ball. He is so smooth that at times his play seems effortless.
There was very little to criticize in this game. The Trojans played very well on defense and contested the Cougar guards. Haarms had a difficult time scoring inside. After the game Cougar coach Mark Pope said the Trojans clogged the lane and limited opportunities inside and challenged everything outside. He also complimented the Trojan defensive scheme that switched from jumping ball screens on some possessions to going under screens on others. The Cougars didn’t know what to expect from possession to possession. Pope said his team got frustrated and that USC’s length really bothered the Cougars.
The Numbers Tell The Story
Drew made 7-13 shots including 3-4 from three for 19 points and contributed 5 rebounds. It has become very apparent after three games how much his eligibility this season means to this team.
Evan made 8 of his 12 shots and finished with 17 points and 11 boards. He scored in a variety of ways and the Cougars struggled to contain him. Isaiah made 5-8 shots for 11 points and 11 rebounds. Coach Pope was very complimentary, saying they are both efficient and play without a personal agenda. He credited the brothers and the coaching staff and described them as “terrific young players.”
Tajh Eaddy played very well at both ends. He finished 7-13 from the field and 2-4 from three and had 4 assists. His defense outside was solid all game. The Cougars came into the game making a very high percentage of their shots and threes, but USC had all the answers.
One advantage the Trojans will likely have against most teams is their their three big men can take the ball up court after a defensive rebound and make a play. Chevez Goodwin went coast to coast on one possession. He also played very well defensively and helped limit the BYU inside game.
Anderson Has Back Spasms
Ethan Anderson has back spasms and is doubtful for Thursday’s game against UConn. He will receive acupuncture treatment when the team returns home. BYU has great shooting guards but they are not quick or particularly athletic. The Trojans didn’t miss Ethan in this game but against a different opponent the defense may struggle without him.
The continual free throw woes were the only negative statistic. The team made only 56% from the line, continuing poor foul shooting this season and back to last year. Unless there is marked improvement it is likely the Trojans will lose a close game or two as a result.
The Cougars had 15 offensive rebounds but Coach Enfield was not concerned. The Trojans grabbed 12 offensive rebounds themselves and BYU missed so many shots they had many more opportunities on the offensive boards.
The Transfers Continue To Be Major Contributors
All four transfers have played well so far and that should continue. They will get better opportunities to score because they are not primary focuses of opponent’s defenses. They get easier opportunities when the Mobley brothers are on the floor. It has become obvious that the coaching staff did a great job in finding transfer players who meshed with the Trojan style of play, work hard, take instruction and want to win.
The team may have learned a valuable lesson. They played very hard for the entire game on both ends and they all looked to help on defense and found open teammates on offense. They learned what they can do if they lay with energy and unselfishly. This team will be exciting to watch.