The USC Trojans drop their third consecutive game, losing to the Oklahoma Sooners in a tight 85-83 game. They gave the Sooners a real run for their money down the stretch, overcoming a 12 point halftime deficit to pull within two. Unlike the first two losses, the second half Trojans played the best basketball of the season despite failing to surge past the Sooners.
The Trojans came out about as flat as Kyrie Irving’s version of the earth to start, with 11 of their 17 turnovers going down in the opening 20 minutes. USC was down 48-36 headed into the half. Nine of Oklahoma’s 15 made 3-pointers splashed in the first half as the Trojans looked simply outclassed by the Sooners.
But USC was not going to let another game slide past them without putting on a show, scoring 47 second half points to bring them within two as time evaporated. Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart had monster performances that combined for 43 points and shooting 58 percent. They were the perfect complement for one another, McLaughlin slashing and chopping through the defense, while Stewart went 7-for-11 shooting from deep.
The Sooners looked stumped as their 12-point halftime lead quickly disintegrated, with the Trojans licking at their heels in hot pursuit. Even with the lead they took early, the Sooners needed inspired performances to win the game. Point guard Tre Young posted 29 points and nine assists to keep the team afloat, while fellow guard Christina James claimed 19 points in the winning effort.
Down the stretch, a Sooners squad that hits of 70 percent of their free throws missed five in a row and finished the game shooting 62 percent. They also played the paint game of USC dreadfully in the final two minutes, fouling both Chimezie Metu and McLaughlin on layups to give them the and one.
Unfortunately on two inbounds plays, the Trojans failed to foul quickly enough, which game them only 3.1 one seconds to try and go up by one. This lead to a McLaughlin heave from half court to recapture the lead. And it almost went in!
Despite an atrocious first half, USC was able to nearly secure the comeback, leaving the rest of us with very mixed emotions about the unit. Even with bad nights from two starters, does a consistent USC team have the potential to be a really great team? Once they play a full game against a solid opponent, the sky is the limit for the Trojans. However, the team must find a rhythm before halftime if that is to happen.
Three Digestible Nuggets
- Can the real Jonah Matthews please stand up? Or get released from where they are holding him? The player who dropped 18 against Lehigh and looked to be the second three-point sniper next to Stewart has yet to hit double digit points since. The answer may be as simple as playing him minutes while the second team is on the floor to get him more shots, the bottom line is something has to change or he will stay cold.
- This column will continue to highlight Metu as long as he continues to be one of he most consistent parts of the Trojans roster. He is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds and is by far the only player that looks really good in the first half of every game. Against Oklahoma was no exception, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds while grabbing three points in the final 1:30 to help the Trojans nearly grab the comeback.
- Oklahoma playing poorly in the final two minutes and going cold for most of the second half from downtown is why this game was so close. In the first half USC had no answer for the deep shooting of the Sooners. The perimeter defense has to attack with urgency when an opponent becomes hot. Instead the Sooners went unchecked from range, with halftime the only thing slowing them down.