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Breakdown: USC Wins Fourth Straight, Beats West Alabama

USC (4-1) won its fourth straight game, beating Division II West Alabama (1-3) 73-57 Thursday night at the Galen Center in the Trojans' Battle 4 Atlantis opener. Three players finished in double figures for USC.


Key moment(s): Heading to Halftime. After letting West Alabama hang around for most of the first half, USC finished on a 15-4 run in the final seven and a half minutes to take a 45-25 lead into halftime -- the same lead it held against Cal State Fullerton.

Close it Out. The Trojans again let the an opponent hang around longer than they should with West Alabama going on a 14-2 run before USC put the finishing touches on the game with an 11-3 run to end the game . The run started with a Pe'Shon Howard to Julian Jacobs alley-oop on a set play.

"He is a freshman and sometimes we rely on him most of the game," head coach Andy Enfield said of Jacobs after the game. "I have to remind myself as a coach that we have to let him play through his mistakes. He's done an amazing job so far. He's been big in every game for us."

Player of the game: Nikola Jovanovic. The Serbian freshman set a new points high in his fifth college game, finishing with 14 points and tied his career-high with six rebounds. Jovanovic missed only one shot on the night, finishing 5-for-6, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc.

"I don't think he realizes how good he could be," Enfield said. "He's just a young player, who's talented and has an unbelievable attitude. He shows up every day with his eyes wide open and just wants to get better."

Jovanovic can play an integral role in USC's four-out, one-in offense because he can stretch the floor from the four position. If he can be a threat from downtown, like he was against West Alabama, it widens the offense.

"It's good to play next to another big guy, especially because he shoots so he spreads out the floor a lot," Oraby said. "That gives me more space under the basket. He can also post up and play inside when I'm not in the game. He's a very talented guy."

Most Spectacular Play(s): The Double Stuff. Andy Enfield wants his defense to power the offense. It definitely did that on one possession in the first half. West Alabama had a fast break with Cordell Pope leading the way. He avoided a defender and went up for the finger roll, but freshman Julian Jacobs skied from the right side to wipe away Pope's shot.

But it didn't end there. USC took the ball the other way with Jacobs getting the ball on the right side of the lane where he fired an over-the-shoulder pass to Omar Oraby, who took one dribble, pump faked and threw down one of his three dunks on the night.

Here's Oraby talking after the game:

Unsung Hero: Brendyn Taylor. Last season, Brendyn Taylor became the forgotten player when head coach Kevin O'Neill was fired and Bob Cantu took over as the interim coach. It didn't seem like he would become a prominent player in the rotation this year either when he played only three minutes in the season opener at Utah State, but Taylor has continued to work and earn playing time.

On Thursday night, he was in the game for 10 minutes and made the most of it. Taylor drilled a pair of open 3-pointers in the second half, grabbed a pair of rebounds and had an assist. With J.T. Terrell academically ineligible, Taylor could see more and more opportunities.

"Step It Up:" Finish it Off. If they are going to have a chance for postseason play, the Trojans are going to have to learn to step on the jugular. For the second straight game, USC let an inferior opponent trim away at a 20+ point lead with a lengthy run. Tuesday it was a 14-0 run by Cal State Fullerton. Against West Alabama, it was a 14-2 run.

Key stat(s): 14. USC played 14 players as every player dressed got in the game. Andy Enfield emptied the bench before the game was over, putting in walk-ons Daniel Munoz and Samer Dhillon. But at the end of the first half, walk-on Devon Pfleuger played the final three minutes. While Pfleuger got more minutes, he didn't get an opportunity to put up a shot -- something both Munoz and Dhillon did....but both missed.

16 to 4. The Trojans outscored West Alabama 16 to 4 on fast break points. USC did a good job of jumping the passing lanes and pushing the ball on defensive rebounds. There were multiple dunks on the break, but the Trojans were also very sloppy with the ball at times, committing 16 turnovers in the game.

Quote of the Night:

"He's a senior captain. He is our most athletic player. He averaged double figures last year. He was a starter, so it definitely hurts us…we need him. We're hoping he's back after the first semester." -- USC head coach on J.T. Terrell being ruled academically ineligible.

Where They Stand: It wasn't pretty at times, but the Trojans did what they had to do during a four-game homestand to come away with a four-game winning streak and a 4-1 record. USC now goes on the road, heading to the Caribbean where it'll take on much tougher competition when the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament really gets going in the Bahamas. USC opens with Villanova, who is currently 3-0. The Trojans will then play the winner/loser of Kansas/Wake Forest.

Enfield joked that the players will have to pack a swimsuit and suntan lotion, but then said this will be a business trip, not just be a vacation.

"We're going to play three big-time basketball teams," Enfield said. "This is a challenge for us, but we're looking forward to it."

Highlights: Some quick highlights from @USC_Hoops

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