The USC men’s basketball team picked up its first win of the 2014-15 season thanks to 19 points from Katin Reinhardt and a strong defensive effort down the stretch. The Trojans defeated the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, 70-58, Monday night at the Galen Center.
After struggling with turnovers in the first half and to start the second half, USC only turned the ball over once in the final 10 minutes and was able to pull away in the final five minutes for the 12-point victory. Jordan McLaughlin was sloppy early, but finished with a career-high seven assists and only two turnovers. He also scored 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and had four rebounds and four steals.
USC used a 2-3 zone for most of the night, forcing the Golden Eagles to shoot from deep where they struggled all night. Tennessee Tech finished 1-for-18 from three-point range.
"I thought our zone was very effective," USC head coach Andy Enfield said, adding that he probably should have used it more against Portland State.
But overall Enfield was happy with the Trojans' defense, particularly when it counted most down the stretch.
"They really kept they composure and played well defensively down the stretch," Enfield said in his on-court post-game interview.
Where Tennessee Tech excelled was down low where California natives Dwan Caldwell and Charles Jackson feasted. Caldwell finished with 19 points and five rebounds -- all five on the offensive end. Jackson also had five offensive boards, finishing a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Caldwell and Jackson were the primary issues on the offensive glass, but they weren't the only ones USC couldn't keep off the boards. Tennessee Tech finished with 22 offensive rebounds. USC had only 25 defensive boards.
Star sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic had his second rough game in a row.
"I was the most surprised guy in the city of Los Angeles when he played like he did on Saturday," Andy Enfield said afterward of his returning leading scorer.
Things didn't improve from his six-point, seven-rebound season opener. He finished just 1-of-6 from the floor and had seven points and three rebounds in 26 minutes.
USC came out of the gates strong, making six of its first 10 shots to take a 15-4 lead. But the Trojans struggled to close out the half. After building its lead up to 13 at one point, USC didn’t make a field goal in the final 10:40 and had eight turnovers. Tennessee Tech chipped away the the lead cutting it to 29-24 by the break.
The Trojans now will take off across the country to participate in the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. USC will open with Akron (1-0) on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Tennessee Tech next plays in-state foe Chattanooga back home in Cookeville, Tenn. on Saturday.