Through two games, this Trojan team full of transfers and Presidential Scholars and token scholarship athletes has played with a brewing chemistry that has carried them to victory, this time a 62-44 win over Long Beach State. USC is now 2-0 on the season.
The Trojans have now had their second 60-point game on the year, something they did only one time through all of 2011.
USC really spread the ball around, with a lot of new guys and fresh legs getting serious face time against The Beach. Wake Forest transfers F Ari Stewart and G J.T. Terrell finished the night with double-digit scoring efforts, each with 10 points to their respective names. F Eric Wise also had a strong showing Tuesday night, putting up 10 more points and also grabbing 12 rebounds in his first double-double as a Trojan. Wise, who had to sit out a year after transferring from UC Irvine, has shown not even a little bit of rust after missing a season. Last year he averaged 15 points a game, and against Long Beach State he was nearly as productive.
Not only that, but USC seems to be a much deeper team this year than in 2011. Nine players got on the board against the 49ers, and three put up double figures. Their bench outscored the 49ers 23-3 and they also dominated in the paint, getting 24 points there to Long Beach State’s 10. They shot 45-percent to Long Beach’s 27-percent, showing a much better defensive effort in the second half of this game, and in the final 15 minutes, the Trojans went on a 27-9 run.
Better defense was something coach Kevin O’Neill really stressed after USC’s season-opening win over Coppin State, and the team has adjusted well. We saw their pressure defense for the first time this season, and given Long Beach State’s poor shooting, O’Neill is definitely on to something with this bunch.
Long Beach State put up a solid effort, especially in the first half, but was ultimately worn down by USC’s ability to rotate players in and out of the game. G Mike Caffey and F James Ennis finished the game as top performers for The Beach, having 30 points and seven boards between them. Ennis set Caffey up for an alley-oop early in the first half but were silenced a bit in the second half. F Kris Gulley added six points and six rebounds of his own, but their group effort would not be enough to overcome SC.
Trojan G Chass Bryan gave an incredible effort and has really filled the void of Maurice Jones being lost to academic ineligibility. Halfway through the second half the walk-on freshman drained a bucket, stole it away from Long Beach on the following possession and then nailed another shot in the face of a Long Beach defender. F Dewayne Dedmon also had an impressive night, putting up back-to-back monster dunks with five minutes left in the game to put it just out of reach for Long Beach State.
The makeover Trojan hoops got in the offseason is slowly being unveiled, and through two games, they are playing as if they have a statement they want to make in 2012. They might be a rag-tag bunch, but they are really clicking so far and if continued, they could finish better than their projected 9th place in the Pac-12.
USC takes on the Fighting Illini of Illinois next on Nov. 20.