The Vanderbilt Commodores gave the No. 10 USC Trojans their best shot over the weekend and took them to overtime in an impressive showing. In the first real test of the season for USC, there was plenty to learn about the team, as the mental toughness of the squad shined along with some personal performances.
Both teams had no problem scoring particularly late as the Trojans were outscored 46-45 in the second half. After a 13-9 overtime, USC took home the victory against an notoriously tough home crowd for Vanderbilt.
What We Learned about USC
1 - The starting five for the Trojans is really, really good, putting up 88 of the 93 points. While Jordan McLaughlin was the go to player on a night he posted 35 points and shot 12 for 19, he was not the only stud in the starters. Chimezie Metu racked up 23 points and eight rebounds along with a pair of blocks, while the entire starting five shot 93.8 percent from the free throw line.
Even Bennie Boatwright scored 14 points on a quiet night, along with six rebounds in the third man roll. Elijah Stewart also had a great, under-the-radar night, with nine points on 3 of 4 shooting and five rebounds. The starters shot 47 percent from behind the three point line and shot 52.5 percent from the field.
USC’s starting five is not only good enough to win a lot of games, they also have enough studs to trade off nights. Boatwright does not need to post 20 points every night, much like McLaughlin is not on the hook for 30 every outing. They have at least four players that can post big nights and carry the team. The Trojans do not depend on every star to have huge games in a win because they have plenty of studs to trade out nights. This team will live and die by the starting five.
2 - The bench is not going to help the Trojans win games, at least not yet. Shaqquan Aaron scored the lone five points for the bench in the outing, while the bench collectively racked up eight fouls. The expectation headed into the season was the starters would win games, but they would also posses some sort of depth.
The problem here is that not only do the Trojans posses zero depth, but the bench is so lacking that they will not get much floor time to improve either. They may get better over the season, however, they will have to be doing it in practice because right now the bench is not earning time on the court in games.
3 - With the badge of a top 10 team next to their name, the consequence is added motivation from the opposition to knock off the Trojans. USC is going to be getting the best shot from a lot of teams they play this season. It showed a lot of maturity and grit for the Trojans to win against a good home court, with no bench against a team that posted 89 points.
They overcame Matthew Fisher-Davis’ monster double-double (31 points, 11 rebounds) and a nice showing from the Vanderbilt bench that had 25 points to USC’s five. They outlasted the Commodores in overtime for a great road win.
There is a real concern about the Trojans depth, but the level of play they are receiving from their starters will mask those problems. This is a great team that should be able to roll through the early part of the season and make for great games when they get into their conference schedule. Look for this team to contend the PAC-12 title once again despite their flaws.