After starting the season 4-1, the USC basketball team has dropped a pair of games to open the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas. The Trojans fell 94-79 to Villanova (5-0) on Thanksgiving morning and then 77-63 on Friday at the hands of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-1).
USC concludes its three-game appearance in Nassau on Saturday when the Trojans play at 10 a.m. PST against Xavier.
Villanova 94, USC 79
Pe'Shon Howard had his best game as a Trojan. The senior transfer from Maryland scored a career-high 23 points, knocking down four of his eight 3-pointers in an 8-for-16 shooting performance. Howard also had three of USC's eight steals.
USC's reserve bigs had their best games of the season. D.J. Haley and Roschon Prince each scored a new USC career high as well. Prince had 13 points and eight rebounds banging down low for 27 minutes. The freshman from Long Beach Poly also had an assist, block and two steals.
Haley, a senior transfer, had 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting and knocked down all four of his free throws (the only consistent shooter from the charity stripe on Thursday) -- tying his previous career high of 10 points against Towson when he was still playing for Virginia Commonwealth.
Even with the game out of hand, with the Trojans trailing by as much as 21 points in the second half, USC gave a consistent effort, playing hard for all 40 minutes of the game.
- Andy Enfield's bench rotation quickly shrank with USC playing its first major conference opponent. After using 11 or more players in each of USC's first five games, Enfield played only 10 Trojans with Brendyn Taylor playing just four minutes and Strahinja Gavrilovic getting just one minute of court time.
- In the second half, Omar Oraby got over-the-back offensive fouls called against him on back-to-back possessions in the second half. While he may not have touched a Villanova player as he reached past to tip the ball back to himself, the plays sent him back to the bench in foul trouble and were emblematic of his worst game of the season. Oraby scored only five points (season low) on 2-of-5 shooting (worst of the year). He was 1-for-4 from the free throw line, had three turnovers and managed only four rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Trojans lost by 13…they missed 15 free throws, shooting 25-for-40. At one point late in the second half, they missed six free throws in a row that could have helped them potentially trim the lead to single digits.
Julian Jacobs had his worst game in a USC jersey. He scored only one point on 0-for-4 shooting, turned the ball over three times and grabbed just one rebound after entering averaging over six per game.
USC had only seven assists. On the other hand, the Trojans turned the ball over 16 times. Even worse was the assist-to-turnover ratio of the starters: 4-to-15.
Wake Forest 77, USC 63
- Freshman Khalil Dukes played a career-high 10 minutes and scored a season-best eight points (3-for-7), making a pair of three-point baskets (2-for-6).
- Once again, the Trojans struggled from the free throw line. USC was 10-for-19 for a crappy 52.6 percent. Oraby led the futility, making just one of his five attempts.
- Speaking of Oraby and futility, he managed only five points. The 7-foot-2 Egyptian took only two field goal attempts. He did grab nine rebounds and blocked three shots, but the Trojans need the senior to step up on the offensive end. Oraby had at least a five-inch height advantage on each of Wake Forest's starters, but USC didn't take advantage of it. And when Oraby did get the ball down low, he dribbled too often, having the ball stripped on multiple occasions.
- If there's one truth in basketball, it's that if you don't shoot well and the other team does, you aren't going to win very often. The Trojans showed that on Friday, shooting only 39.3 percent for the game while the Demon Deacons finishing shooting 52.6 percent from the floor.
- In both games, USC struggled in transition defense. There were several times, opponents blew right defenders and there was no one attempting to step in to take a charge or to even cut off the lane to the basket.
- USC missed 15 of its first 16 three-point attempts. When USC can't make outside shots, the opponent is able to slouch down to help clog the middle and contain the Trojans' height advantage.