For brevity's sake, USC was gassed.
Following three games in the span of five days, a USC team looking to start 3-0 for the first time in 10 years was largely incapable of stopping a Rider offense that eventually tallied 77 points on 60% shooting.
In some ways, however, a letdown was to be expected. For a roster short on depth that utilizes a seven-man rotation, it's easy to see why 'SC struggled. It's tough to ask a freshman point guard in Maurice Jones to play 120 minutes in three consecutive games.There's eventually going to be a letdown, and that's what happened Wednesday.
Rider played some zone, and USC struggled as a result. That's to be expected. But finding fault with Kevin O'Neill and portraying the loss as indicative of a larger problem is premature and reactionary, particularly at this point in time.
This is a hard-nosed, defensive-oriented team that was anything but against Rider.
"In my two years, that's the worst we've been defensively," O'Neill told the media in the post-game press conference. "To give up 60 percent is unacceptable."
Yes, it was that bad. Rider shot 12-of-19 from three-point range, 11-of-15 from the free-throw line, and yea, 27-of-45 overall.
It's easy to blame strategy and the offensive production, because it was sorely lacking. After all, Bryce Jones went 2-of-13, Donte Smith finished 4-of-10 from the field and Wooden Award candidate Nikola Vucevic finished with just 9 points. Possibly, even most irritating was the team's shooting percentage from 3-point range: 6.7%.
They missed shots, many of them gimmes, while Rider seemingly couldn't miss. There will be nights like this, however, especially with a shortened rotation playing its third game in five days. They have a chance to rebound with games against Bradley, New Mexico State and Cal St. Fullerton before the a Dec. 5 home matchup with Texas. In the meanwhile, there's a lot of work to be done, but for now, don't write off a team starting two 18-year-old guards just yet.