-- BREAKING IT DOWN --
Key moment(s): Big Second-Half Run. For the second game in a row, USC clamped down on defense in the second half in order to make a substantial run. After falling behind by 10 points at halftime, the Trojans got an earful from head coach Andy Enfield in the locker room. Enfield said what he told the team was not printable.
He may want to save whatever he said because it definitely worked. Northern Arizona scored the first basket of the second half, but the Trojans followed with a 14-2 run, appropriately highlighted by a Byron Wesley 3-pointer from the top of the key that tied the game 44-44. It was the first 3-pointer Wesley has made this season and the only one he attempted tonight.
Tired Legs: After scoring 15 points each in the first half, Northern Arizona guards Aaseem Dixon and Quinton Upshur went silent for the majority of the second half. They combined for only eight points on 3-of-14 shooting in the second half.
"Their two guards in the first half gave us all they can handle. Our goal was to try to come out in the second half and wear them down phsyically," Enfield said. "I did think their shooters wore down in the second half. We held [Northern Arizona] to 25 percent shooting, 2-for-14 from the three-point line. To me, that was more fatigue."
"Some of those threes that were going in in the first half, did not go in luckily in the second half."
Player of the game: Byron Wesley. Last game, Byron Wesley set a new career high with 11 rebounds. Against Northern Arizona, he went for his scoring mark. After collecting 16 points in the first half, Wesley followed with another 15 in the second half -- besting his previous career high by eight points. He also came one board shy of notching his second career double-double -- and his second straight.
"He's expanding his game," Enfield said. "I give Byron a lot of credit. He spent a lot of time in the offseason by himself and he's improved. He's leading by example."
Here's Wesley after the game:
Most Spectacular Play: Good First Basket. Julian Jacobs only had one field goal on Friday night, but it was definitely an entertaining one. With the Trojans trailing 50-44, Jacobs got the crowd on its feet with an alley-oop dunk. Pe'Shon Howard pulled down a defensive rebound, went by a defender at half court and the Lumberjack defense never got back. With three Trojans attacking one Northern Arizona player, Howard was able to throw it up to Jacobs, who slammed it down with authority.
Unsung Hero: D.J. Haley. D.J. Haley only scored a single point, but it was definitely an important one as it put the game out of Northern Arizona's reach. But Haley was even more impressive on the previous possession when the Lumberjacks were trying to tie the game with a 3-pointer.
NAU ran a ballscreen for Aaseem Dixon, who was 6-for-12 from deep at that point, to try to get him an open look from behind the three-point line. The 7-foot, 250 pound senior center got switched onto the 6-foot, 185-pound Lumberjack point guard. But Haley was not deterred.
Knowing the Lumberjacks needed a 3-pointer, he crouched down his big frame and extended his defense out beyond the arc. Dixon couldn't go anywhere with the wide arms of Haley blocking the way. He was forced to pass the ball and waste more time. Eventually after a switch, Dixon got the ball back and launched a three that clanged off the iron, where it was gobbled up by Haley.
"You saw how he moves his feet. He's got great energy. And he loves to play defense," Enfield said. "He can stay in front of guards and he just wills himself to it. He's 250-something pounds and he just decides to get in the stance and guard people. I love that. And it means so much to our team."
"Step It Up:" It's FREE. When the opposition fouls you, you are supposed to confidently step to the line and knock down the freebies. It's called a free throw after all. The Trojans did a good job driving to the basket and drawing fouls, but they couldn't knock down their free throws.
USC finished the game 19-for-36 from the line, an abysmal 52.8 percent -- otherwise known as Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard numbers. Omar Oraby was 4-for-9. Roschon Prince missed both his attempts. D.J. Haley was only 1-of-4, though the one he did hit made it a two-possession game with 8.7 seconds remaining.
The Trojans will get plenty of practice shooting the freebies before their next game.
"They need to make a couple hundred before they go to sleep tonight, so we'll see what time they get to bed," Enfield said. "We might have to order breakfast in the Galen Center."
Key stat(s): 50 to 14 vs. 0 to 50. In the first half, the Lumberjacks knocked down 50 percent (7-for-14) of their three-point attempts. That number collapsed to 14 percent in the second half when they made only 2 of 14. On the other bench, USC went from shooting 0-for-8 from deep in the first half to 2-for-4 in the second half.
+20. The Trojans dominated inside once again. USC scored 42 points in the paint and held Northern Arizona to 22. A lot of the USC points came from Byron Wesley drives, but Omar Oraby also chipped in. While he didn't put up double figures offensively, he saved double figures defensively with five blocks -- one shy of his career high.
Quote of the Night:
"We showed great effort in the second half and that we wanted to win the game. I wasn't so sure in the first half." -- USC head coach Andy Enfield on the Trojans' energy.
Sideline Strategy: J.T. Terrell did not start for the second game in a row. Enfield said he was slated to start, but Terrell had to be excused to take care of some academic issues, which caused him to miss shootaround. That opened up a slot for Pe'Shon Howard.
Earlier in the week, Howard changed his Twitter profile to say "RETIRED COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER." But he was anything but retired on Friday night. He got significant playing time, logging a season-high 25 minutes, and took advantage of it. Howard brought defensive energy and intensity, leading the offense with four assists and only one turnover. He also hit his first 3-pointer of the season, late in the second half.
Enfield used 11 players and 10 of the 11 scored. But with the Trojans trailing at halftime, he mainly relied on a tightened rotation of the starters, Terrell and D.J. Haley.
Chass Bryan only got eight minutes, but it was during his four second half minutes that USC finally got in an offensive rhythm by pushing the tempo. Julian Jacobs continued the pace after returning to the game for Bryan, but the second-half surge (and a 7-0 run that tied the game) happened with Bryan leading the charge.
Where They Stand: It wasn't pretty, but the Trojans didn't get chopped down by the Northern Arizona, pulling out the 67-63 victory. USC moves above .500 with two more winnable games leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.