The Oklahoma Sooners (9-1) defeated the USC Trojans (5-5) by a score of 81-70 at the Bank of Oklahoma Center Saturday night. Here are three takeaways from the game for the USC Trojans:
1. The Trojans fail to win a resume boosting game yet again
The Trojans have had five opportunities early on this year to win a marquee game. They have played the Vanderbilt Commodores, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Nevada Wolf Pack, the TCU Horned Frogs and the Oklahoma Sooners. They have failed to win each one and lost by single digits in only one of those games (vs. Vanderbilt). On top of this, they lost by a whopping points 35 to TCU, the worst loss in the Andy Enfield era. This is just not enough. Any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament before the year began have all but faded away. The Sooners matchup was the last non-conference game of worth that USC had to boost its tournament resume before Pac-12 conference play began. Another year, disappointing start for the Trojans. Sigh.
USC basketball loses to Oklahoma, 81-70, and drops to 5-5 overall. The Trojans will finish non-conference play without a win over a major-conference team.— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) December 16, 2018
2. 34.8 percent
That’s the field goal percentage that the Trojans accounted for in the game, well below their season average. No Trojan player shot over 50 percent from the field, with Nick Rakocevic shooting the highest percentage for a starter at 42.8 percent. To put the team’s poor shooting day into further context, the Sooners should 49.2 percent from the field. Senior guard Miles Reynolds led the way for the Sooners with 20 points on 70 percent shooting from the field. If the Trojans planned on stealing a big game against a great program, they needed to be on their A-game and shoot better from the field. It’s that simple.
3. The Trojans need more production from the bench unit
Eight players played for the Trojans Saturday night. Of the three players that came off the bench, only Jordan Usher produced a scoring output of double digits (10). While a lack of scoring from the bench has a lot to do with the production of the players, a big chunk of it also has to do with Coach Enfield’s rotational tendencies. If Bennie Boatwright is struggling from the field, like he did Saturday night against the Sooners (3-13 on field goal attempts), he needs to look to the bench for more production. Freshman forward J’Raan Brooks and sophomore forward Victor Uyaelunmo could provide much needed help from the bench. Playing freshman standout Elijah Weaver more could also increase bench production. On 20 minutes per game on the year, Weaver is averaging 6.4 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from the three-point line. With this type of efficiency, his minutes need to go up. When the going gets tough and the starters struggle like they did in this game, Enfield needs to place more trust in the bench unit. If not, then the Men of Troy are going to continue to suffer defeats like this one.
For the Trojans to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to start winning the games that matter. With conference play looming in the distance, they can do just that. If not, their only hope is to win the Pac-12 Tournament happening in March to acquire an auto-bid. The 2019 recruiting class, currently ranked as the No. 2 class in the country, couldn't come any sooner.