USC beat UC Riverside 70-28 on Saturday night, but J.T. Terrell did not hit the court until the final minute of the second half. Almost in an act of defiance against Terrell, coach Kevin O’Neill played Brendan Taylor and Renaldo Woolridge more minutes in the second half, and the move was a desperate, yet successful, attempt by O’Neill to motivate his struggling superstar.
In his last three games, Terrell has shot under 50 percent in each contest and has scored no more than 14 points. The bigger issue has been Terrell’s inopportune shot selection and lack of flow within this offense.
Granted, this USC offense is not that diverse, but it requires a team effort and giving up clean shots every so often. O’Neill has been quoted saying that Terrell’s shot selection has not been the reasoning for his benching, which makes fans tend to believe his attitude and his overall perception of the offense are seemingly shaky.
The man who replaced Terrell at the two, Byron Wesley, provides his own set of strengths and weaknesses. On the offensive end, Wesley plays within the system to a fault and takes very few shots. This will help ball movement to set up better shots, but USC needs their two guard to score to clear out space for Oraby and Dedmon.
What Wesley struggles with that Terrell had provided, was a lack of fear on the court. Late in the shot clock, Fontan could turn to Terrell to attack the basket and fire up a shot. So far this season Terrell has taken, and for the most part, missed those shots, but that type of ability is valuable for this ball club.
With Pac-12 play just about two weeks away, USC will rely heavily upon their big men to carry them in the winter months. Omar Oraby followed an impressive seven of nine performance from the field against San Diego State with only seven points on three shots. UCR made a concerned effort to double and even triple team the 7-foot-2 center.
Other teams will attempt to do the same, placing emphasis on Wise and Fontan to take and make big shots to alleviate pressure. O’Neill’s bold move has worked beautifully through one game, but let’s see how it plays out over the coming weeks.
USC’s offense looked very crisp on Saturday Night with a clear intention in mind from opening tip, to feed the bigs and dish to shooters. On the night, the Trojans attempted 20 three-point shots, a season high, and actually hit nine of them. With Terrell not in the lineup, the perimeter game falls heavily on Chass Bryan, Jio Fontan and, yes the man who could score 15 a night if he wanted to, Byron Wesley.
The only true disappointing note from the annihilation USC laid on Riverside, was that the Trojans actually turned the ball over more times than UCR, 12 to eight.
Expect a hungry J.T. Terrell to practice hard and work his way back into the rotation as a key contributor for the Trojans, and if this team can buy into the inside-out physical style of play O’Neil is teaching, magical things could be awaiting this under-performing ball club.
The (4-6) Trojans will face UC Irivne on Thursday, before flying to Georgia to face the Bulldogs on Saturday.