-- BREAKING IT DOWN --
Key moment(s): Big second-half run. Trailing by nine at halftime, Cal State Northridge used a 15-4 run to trim USC's lead down to 58-54 with 12:12 remaining. Stephan Hicks then forced Julian Jacobs' only turnover, but he missed a 3-pointer that would have cut the Trojan lead down to a single digit.
A J.T. Terrell defensive board led to a Roschon Prince fast break bucket and USC was off. It scored the next six points and 13 of the next 15 enroute to a 27-6 run that included two Pe'Shon Howard fast break buckets, all eight of Terrell's points and seven points from Omar Oraby. In less than seven minutes, a close ballgame turned into a blowout with USC taking a 23-point lead.
Providing a spark: Last season when head coach Kevin O'Neill was fired, then freshman Brendyn Taylor became the odd man out. He went from getting regular minutes to usually only seeing garbage time. But like the rest of the team, he got a fresh start when Andy Enfield was hired.
He only played three minutes in the season opener. On Tuesday, he got 13 minutes against the Matadors and Taylor provided an immediate impact. With the two teams going back and forth in the first half, Taylor checked in with 10:03 remaining. One second later, the ball touched his hands and then swished through the net as he gave USC the lead with a 3-pointer from the corner on an inbounds play. The Trojans never trailed again.
"Man, that was huge," junior Byron Wesley said. "He came in and played great defense. He used the time that he got to really help us, to get us going. He was a spark off the bench."
Taylor brought a contagious defensive intensity and knocked down another 3-pointer from the same spot on the floor on a great push by Chass Bryan after a defensive rebound.
Player of the game: Omar Oraby. After the game, Enfield said he hasn't seen enough from Omar Oraby. Enfield wants his 7-2 center to be more aggressive and demand the ball more.
"He had 17 points and six rebounds, but I thought he should have had more rebounds," Enfield said. "I think there's more in the tank there. He's got to realize that if he wants to be a dominant player in this league, he's got to be the aggressor."
Even if it wasn't enough to fully appease his coach, Oraby was tremendous for the Trojans down low on Tuesday. He got great positioning, presented a large target for his guards to pass to, caught the ball well and finished once he had it in his hands.
"I feel great. I'm doing as much as I can to try to help the team win -- not only scoring, defense and blocking shots, running up and down the floor putting pressure on the defense," Oraby said before admitting there might be more he can do. "Maybe. I have to demand the ball more. I'm shooting a high percentage."
After seeing Oraby score 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting the first two games, you'd probably want the ball in your big man's hands more as well.
Oraby also had two blocks and an assist. Coming into the season, Oraby's conditioning was a concern with the Trojans' new uptempo offense, but in two games, Oraby has yet to look tired at any point. Against CSUN, he played 23 minutes -- the most by any USC post player.
Most Spectacular Play: Stuff City. Cal State Northridge didn't have too many highlights. But one that will go on the season highlight reel came late in the game after the outcome was already all but determined.
On a fast break, USC dropped the ball off to Strahinja "Luis" Gavrilovic, who took off and tried to hammer down a strong left-handed jam over Northridge center Tre Edmerson-Hale. Hale didn't back down.
Instead of becoming a posterization victim, Edmerson-Hale went up to challenge the Serbian and took him to Stuff City. The ball never made it to the rim as Edmerson-Hale rejected the shot and sent Gavrilovic flailing to the floor. Just for good measure, Edmerson-Hale then stood over him for a couple of seconds while the ball headed toward the other end.
"We're all begging him to dunk the ball," Oraby said with a chuckle, "so at least he tried."
Unsung Hero: Nikola Jovanovic. Coming into the season, it was expected that freshmen Roschon Prince and Julian Jacobs would see significant minutes, but it was unknown what impact the rest of the freshman class would have. Nikola Jovanovic showed Tuesday night that he could step in and play a critical role with the Trojans this year.
"He played very good today," Oraby said. "He plays outside and inside, so he played very well today rebounding and shooting. He shot the ball well."
The 6-10 Serbian scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He knocked down his only three-point attempt and hit another deep two-pointer, showing that he can stretch the floor and potentially keep teams from double teaming Oraby with a second forward.
"It helps when you have good shooters outside that can knock down shots," Oraby said. "Teams won't be able to double team me and even if they do, I'm going to kick it out and knock down the three."
"Step It Up:" Class comes first. When Enfield was asked why there were three new names in the starting lineup and J.T. Terrell was conspicuously absent, he said, "My players need to do what's necessary in the classroom and when you don't, you don't start or you don't play. It's pretty simple."
The Trojans are going to need the hot hand of Terrell this season. He can score in bunches as he did during the Trojans' big second-half run, but he has to take care of his off-the-court and classroom duties first and foremost. After seeing good friend Ari Stewart, who was also a teammate at Wake Forest, be ruled academically ineligible for his final season, Terrell should know that.
"We're here to be student-athletes. At such a place as USC, such a high academic school, you're going to waste opportunities if you don't go to class and get your education," Enfield said.
Key stat(s): 95. The Trojans scored 95 points for the first time since putting up the same number against Oregon in 2008. Compare that to 2011-12 when the Trojans failed to score 95 in several two-game stretches.
"When you score 95 points, you can't be too upset," Enfield said.
50. After shooting 24 threes and having only 36 points in the paint in Friday's opener at Utah State, the Trojans made it an emphasis to get to the bucket early and often against the Matadors. Utilizing 14 fast break points that all came in the paint, USC outscored Northridge 50-26 in the lane.
42. USC showed on Tuesday night that it can go 12-deep as the Trojans scored 42 points off the bench with all 12 players that participated getting on the scoring chart. Along with Nikola Jovanovic's 11 points and Brendyn Taylor's two big three-pointers, the Trojans also got 15 combined points from Game 1 starters Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell.
Quote of the Night:
"Anyone that shoots that good a percentage, it means were not getting him the ball enough." -- USC head coach Andy Enfield on Omar Oraby's 7-for-8 shooting.
Sideline Strategy: There was a double take when the starting lineups were posted. Season opener starters J.T. Terrell, Pe'Shon Howard and Strahinja Gavrilovic were out. In were a sophomore "walk-on" and two freshmen. But Chass Bryan is no ordinary walk-on and Julian Jacobs and Roschon Prince looked much more comfortable playing at home with the first game jitters out of the way.
"The freshmen came in and they played extremely hard, which I think was the main thing tonight," Byron Wesley said. "They made things happen early and our freshmen are the reason we got the lead early."
The move worked out great as Bryan and Jacobs helped push the ball early and often, establishing the tempo in the first half. Both guards attacked the basket and found open teammates, combining for a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Jacobs was particularly impressive, filling out every column of the stat sheet. He dished out seven assists, scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting (including a crowd-rousing alley-oop dunk), had two rebounds, two steals and a block.
He did pick up two first half fouls as did Prince, Terrell and D.J. Haley, which forced Enfield to go deep on the bench early in the game. Within the first 10 minutes, 11 USC players had seen playing time.
You can see that Enfield is still experimenting with and discovering the rotations he will rely on later in the season when the team gets into conference play.
"We're still trying to figure out everyone's roles on the team, but as you guys can see, we're pretty deep. We have a lot of talented guys that are ready to play," Wesley said. "Once we figure out what everybody's role is and how they can help us, we're going to be a pretty good team."
The twin point guard lineup with Bryan and Jacobs really helped force the issue early and could be something Enfield utilizes more going forward.
"Both guys have to play for us this year. Whether they start or not, they're still going to play about the same amount of minutes," Enfield said. "But I do like Chass' quickness and speed with the ball. Julian is not quite as fast as Chass, but he's very crafty and he can push the ball."
Where They Stand: The Trojans evened their record, heading into a very winnable game on Friday when they host Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks were 11-21 last season and had their leading returning scorer decide to transfer just before the beginning of the season. USC needs to take care of business against the lesser opponents on its non-conference schedule.
Highlights: Some quick highlights from @USC_Hoops: