By Rich Ruben
The Trojans started very fast again at Berkeley and led 17-6, but like Tuesday in Corvallis, USC couldn’t maintain the fast start and with 5:15 left in the half, Cal took it first lead at 25-24. The game was close the rest of the night before the Trojans pulled away very late and won 76-68. USC has a tremendous record over the last several seasons when they hold the opponent to under 70 points. The win gives USC a 12-3 record and 6-2 in Pac-12 play. Combined with UCLA’s loss to injury depleted Stanford the Trojans are back to one game behind the conference leader in the loss column.
Tahj Eaddy and Evan Mobley led the Trojans’ early run and led the team all night. Tahj scored the first 5 points connecting on a three and another field goal and Evan scored the next 8 for the Trojans. Evan finished with a season high 25 points and Tahj scored 18. The Trojans may have lost to Oregon State Tuesday due to poor foul shooting; in this game the Trojans made 21-27 (74%) from the line, making 8 more free throws than Cal and perhaps won this game from the free throw line. USC also shot well from three connecting on 7-15 attempts. Coach Enfield said that after the loss to the Beavers it “was important to get on the winning track. The players played extremely hard (tonight).”
In the last few games the Trojans struggled in five areas. They showed great improvement in reducing turnovers (10), free throw shooting and getting Evan more shots. As a result they beat a Cal team which lost on Thursday to UCLA by 4 without their star Matt Bradley. Bradley returned to play against USC and played well but the Trojans’ better play on the offensive end was enough to secure this much needed win. The Trojans defense continues to be unable to make their early season success; Cal made 24-57 shots (42%), though the Bears made only a third of their 21 threes. Surprisingly the smaller Bears blocked 6 shots while the Trojans blocked only 4. Cal also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds which helped keep the game close. The Trojans have had problems limiting offensive rebounds in almost every game.
Evan Had His Best All Around Game
Evan had an impressive stat line: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. He had the Trojans’ highest plus/ minus at +15. Evan made 6-13 shots including one three and helped seal the win by making 12-15 from the line
Enfield said: “Evan was much more aggressive tonight than Tuesday night… We ran isolation for him at the high post, mid range and inside and he put pressure on the defense non stop… He attacked quickly. We need him to play aggressively and his mentality tonight was to attack, attack, attack.”
The Offense Had A Long Lull After the Fast Start
In similar fashion to the first half at Oregon State the Trojans could not sustain their fast start. After the quick 17 points the Trojans only scored 17 more for the rest of the half. Enfield said: “We missed some easy shots after the fast start and we were tentative during the latter part of the first half.”
The Trojans made 24-58 (41%) of their shots and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds but only outscored a much small Bears team 24-20 in the paint. Part of that may be explained by how many times Evan was fouled inside. They will likely need to shoot a better percentage to win games against stronger opponents.
With the size and skill advantage inside the Trojans only made 7-17 shots around the rim.
The Trojan Guards Played Unevenly
Tahj was very good in this game. He scored 18 points on only 8 shots, making 5 including 3-4 from three.
Enfield liked the energy that Max Agbonkpolo showed. He mentioned two big rebounds by Max, including one very late which helped seal the game Max played 16 minutes and made one three on three shots, grabbed 3 offensive and 3 defensive boards and added an assist.
Enfield said that Ethan Anderson “didn’t play well against Oregon State. Tonight he played well. He’s not where he was before he was injured but he was huge for us tonight. I don’t think we would have won without him tonight.” Ethan played 27 minutes and finished with 11 points, making 4-11 shots, 2-3 from downtown, and was successful on his only foul shot. Ethan also did a good job several times when he was forced to guard a much bigger player after switching on screens.
Drew Peterson struggled, making only one of his eight shots. Enfield said that Drew missed 3 open threes and two layups. He made only 3-9 shots on Tuesday and had 5 turnovers against Oregon State.
“He’s been terrific all season and needs to shake it off,” Enfield said.
Another Non-Scorer Had A Big Game Against USC
On Tuesday at Oregon State big man Roman Silva came into the game averaging under 3 1/2 points. Against the Trojans Silva made 6-7 shots for 12 points. The same thing happened against Cal. Guard Joel Brown made 6-8 shots including both three point attempts and tied for high scorer for Cal with 15. He was averaging 5.2 points coming into this game.
The Trojans did a good job of defending Cal’s leading scorer Matt Bradley. In his first game back from an ankle injury Bradley played 24 minutes and made only 5-13 shots.
The Trojans Were Sure The Covid Test Before The Stanford Game Was A False Positive
Enfield said they knew the player with a positive test experienced a false positive. The player had several negative tests from the time they left LA until the day of the game and the team had not been around anyone else. Unlike at Galen, Stanford did not have the equipment to provide a quick test result (perhaps because they are not playing at home due to Covid restrictions in Santa Clara County). The player had six more negative tests since Thursday afternoon.
The Trojans tried to reschedule the Stanford game for Monday but Stanford balked. Under conference rules both teams must agree to a rescheduled date. It is very likely Stanford didn’t want to play the Trojans without its three missing starters.
WeAreSC Player Of The Week
Week 1- Isaiah Mobley
Weeks 2-3 – Evan Mobley
Week 4 – Tahj Eaddy
Week 5 – Evan Mobley
Week 6 – Drew Peterson
The player of week 7 is Evan Mobley. Evan raised his play and led the Trojans to a much needed win at Cal. He also led USC in scoring and rebounding against Oregon State with 12 points and 13 rebounds. If Evan can play at the level and with the aggression he played with against Cal the Trojans will be much harder to beat.
USC returns home with a split in the two games which were played. It was a difficult week for the players. They spent six days cooped up in three different hotels with very little to do. Playing on the road before hostile crowds is hard. This season there are no crowds and the coaches have a different problem; how to fill the players’ idle time, especially difficult on a long trip.
The loss to Oregon State was very frustrating, but Colorado feels the same way losing to previously winless Washington and so does UCLA after losing to a Stanford team missing three starters. The Trojans have a chance to take out their frustrations on Oregon State at Galen on Thursday afternoon before hosting Oregon on Saturday afternoon. With 12 games left they are all big.