Final Scores: Game #1 - USC 60, San Diego 50, Game #2 - USC 57, Miami (OH) 53, Game #3 - USC 70, #18 Southern Illinois 45
Current Record: 5-1
Current Ranking: #22 (AP), #24 (ESPN/USA Today)
Next Up: Oklahoma - 11/29 (Thurs.)
SC took home the trophy in the Anaheim Classic, here's the positives/negatives from all three games:
- The biggest surprise of the tournament was the play of Davon Jefferson. Going into the tournament, Coach Floyd made it clear he wasn't going to give Davon minutes that he hadn't earned in practice, so it wasn't clear how much we'd see DJ in the tournament. Against USD, we saw Davon come off the bench and play 19 minutes, scoring 5 points and adding 3 rebounds; against Miami (OH) it was more of the same, 17 minutes for 7 points and 2 rebounds. It wasn't until last night's game that we saw what all the fuss was about; Davon again came off the bench along with O.J. and Taj and proceeded to throw down high-flying dunks and show tough moves driving to the basket. He finished with 20 points and 5 boards in 23 minutes of play, and finally showed why he was deemed a "straight to the NBA" prospect in HS (before the mandatory 1-year rule). I mused before the tournament that I hoped DJ would get minutes to prepare him for the big 3, so it's a big relief for me to see DJ ready to go against some big name programs.
- The script was flipped last night and it was SC playing the suffocating defense and forcing SIU to shoot 32.7% from the field. I thought Coach Floyd called a brilliant gameplan keeping Daniel Hackett at arm's length from Randal Falker the entire game and baiting SIU shooters to shoot. It was the same gameplan used on Tyler Hansbrough in the tournament last season that kept him at 5 points on 1-6 shooting; thankfully SIU didn't have a ridiculously athletic player like Brandan Wright to make up the difference. The defensive performance last night is the reason why I'm not worried about the lack of size in the front court in a conference filled with talented big men. We make up for our lack in size with athletic players that can play multiple positions. Of course there'll be a game like Stanford last year where things don't click and the big men dominate, but this team is as flexible as they come and can adapt to various types of teams. In the 3 games we played, our opponents shot 32.8%, 42.6%, and 32.7% respectively. That's very impressive.
- O.J. received Tournament MVP honors and it was well deserved as he led the team in the first two games and contributed solidly in the championship coming off the bench. One thing that I haven't heard mentioned often is O.J.'s defensive play. We hear all about his offensive ability, but his defensive performance in the tournament was lockdown material. Sports writers have always criticized O.J. for his lazy defense, but he hounded opposing guards all tournament and looks like he understands how important defense is in the college game.
- The first two games of the tournament were ugly and a large part of that was due to poor FT shooting and the inability to establish rhythm on the offensive end. I've been saying it repeatedly since the beginning of the season, I think this team plays better when the offense doesn't run through Taj. SIU was the first game where we ran the offense through our guards from the onset and it was our best performance of the year. I'm thinking Coach Floyd, despite the troubles getting the ball down low, wants to establish Taj as a low post presence, but at the moment it's not working and it'll be interesting to see how he calls it against Oklahoma.
- I don't want to continue to bash Taj since he's a important part of our team, but he had a very disappointing tournament. What shocked me about his performance wasn't the lack of production on the offensive end (he had pretty good numbers), but rather his outbursts of frustration and his frequent lapses in defensive rebounding. Taj has always been a fiery guy, but this was the 1st time I saw him barking at his teammates for things that were equally his fault. I also counted numerous times, when the shot was up in the air, Taj trying to rely on his leaping ability (which isn't 100% right now) rather than box the opponent out. Those little things aren't as apparent when you're playing teams like USD, Miami (OH), and SIU, but they are absolutely crucial against teams like Kansas and Memphis. To me, it looks like Taj is trying to put too much pressure on himself to play with his back to the basket; it seems like every time he starts dribbling, defenders converge on him and create a turnover. This is something Taj needs to improve heading into conference play.
- O.J. continues to struggle with turnovers and judging from the types of passes he's trying to make, I think it's purely a result of inexperience. You can see him shaking his head and yelling at himself after a bad pass and to me that is a sign that he knows what he's doing wrong, but hasn't fully adjusted instinctually.