Playing away from Galen Center for the first time in 2010, the Trojans were seconds away from winning two games on the road in Springfield, Mass. Despite a resounding 80-61 win over New Mexico State Sunday, the Trojans were unable to post similar success a day earlier on Saturday, falling to unranked Bradley 64-63 despite holding a late seven-point second half lead.
In spite of many nagging issues against Bradley (21 turnovers, Maurice Jones being held scoreless and Marcus Simmons' late foul which gave BU three free throws to win the game), however, Sunday posed many positives for a young, inexperienced USC team. Seth Rubinroit of the Daily Trojan highlights a few:
Playing motivated after losing the first two games of the tournament, the Trojans (3-2) jumped out to a 17-5 lead against New Mexico State and held on to defeat the Aggies, 80-61. USC held New Mexico State (2-3) to a 35.7 shooting percentage and forced 18 turnovers.
Freshman guard Bryce Jones scored 21 points, the highest total in his first five collegiate games. Junior forward Nikola Vucevic added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Senior guard Marcus Simmons had 12 points and six rebounds.
With a young team, there are going to be growing pains.
Maurice Jones will have off nights, as he did Sunday. So will Bryce Jones. So will Garrett Jackson.
But it would be all the more comforting if players such as senior Marcus Simmons could exercise better judgement. In the final minutes of the game against Bradley, with USC holding a two-point lead, why foul? Just get a hand up, and avoid contact. Simmons should know better; as should Vucevic, who missed two key free throws down the stretch as well.
This team has plenty of room for improvement, but it also has some exciting, young and talented players. In short, there's potential for a solid 2010-2011 season.
This is a tough stretch with eight games in 17 days that will at least speak volumes about the team's character. It's going to be an interesting season.