The USC Men’s Basketball Team traveled on the road to Utah and Colorado, keeping status quo with a 1-1 trip, sending the Trojans home with a .500 record in Pac-12 play.
The first game of the road trip resulted in a loss to Colorado 66-60 on Thursday night, which was a game in which USC had control for most of the first half, but woes in the middle of the game put the nail in the coffin for the Men of Troy.
On Saturday afternoon, the Trojans won their first road game since 2011 defeating Utah 76-59 in Salt Lake City, snapping a 14-game road losing streak. What was most impressive from the performance was that the Trojans shot 50-percent from the field, with five players scoring in double figures.
Trojan fans should be quite surprised with the positive performance the team posted on the road, but should also be concerned about many missed opportunities to finish the weekend undefeated. All that being said, its time for the weekly report card.
Jio Fontan: B
Jio Fontan earns a B grade due to the fact that he could not play in the second half against Colorado, after re-injuring his intercostal muscle with under a minute to play in the first half. Fontan’s absence proved costly as the Trojans committed a season-high 22 turnovers, prompting Colorado’s impressive fast-break attack. In 16 minutes of action, Fontan scored zero points and committed three turnovers to only three assists.
His performance against Utah however, was crucial to the Trojans victory first true-road victory in two calendar years. In 35 minutes of action, Fontan carried the offense, dishing out six dimes while scoring 14 points himself.
This type of play from Fontan is exactly what the Trojans need: composure, precision and sharp decision making with the basketball.
Byron Wesley: B+
USC super sophomore Byron Wesley played assertive basketball this week, which was very encouraging to watch. Wesley scored 23 points over the road stretch, shooting an impressive four-of-six from downtown.
On the defensive end of the court, Wesley was stout against some strong competition, as Colorado shooting guard Spencer Didwiddle was held to 1-7 shooting from the field, ending the night with only five points, way below his 14-point scoring average.
Not only was Wesley more assertive, but he looked confident and composed with the basketball in his hands. Cutting to the basket has been a major deficincy in his game, something Wesley looked much stronger in against Utah and Colorado.
Eric Wise: A-
After playing the last couple of weeks in the small forward position, Eric Wise received a new challenge as the power forward against gigantic lineups in Utah and Colorado. Wise was able to score and rebound the basketball at a premier pace, despite the size disadvantage.
In the past two games Wise posted 16 and 11 points, raising his season average to 12 points per contest. As the main option in the Trojan offense, Wise uses a great combination of inside moves and outside shooting to score the basketball.
Not only is Wise scoring but he is rebounding the ball like the Trojan seven footers. Against Colorado, Wise scored six second-chance points on four offensive rebounds, as part of his nine rebound effort.
Surprisingly enough, Wise was actually the fifth-leading scorer against Utah with 11 points. Trojan fans will continue to relish the unique scoring presence and crafty rebounding toughness Wise provides.
Dewayne Dedmon: A+
The Trojans most raw talent is starting to put the fundamentals together with two-consecutive impressive performances. Dewayne Dedmon has cemented the defensive intensity of this ballclub, posting six blocks and 22 rebounds over the road stretch.
What has been most impressive is Dedmon’s maturity on the offensive end of the court. Best known for his lack of toughness and patience in the paint, Dedmon silenced the critics by scoring in double figures for an impressive five straight games.
The JC transfer arguably played his best game of the season against Utah, when Dedmon scored 13 points on 80-percent shooting from the field, while also racking in 13 rebounds.
Dedmon shut down one of the hottest big-men in the nation, Jason Washburn, who was averaging close to 15 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play. The seven-foot monster stayed out of foul trouble in consecutive games, allowing his size and tenacity to resonate on the court.
JT Terrell: B+
Trojan fans have been waiting for JT Terrell to become the resounding leader of the offense, and are starting to witness that development in front of their eyes.
The ups and downs of JT Terrell’s season have left the Trojans in a constant state of flux, but should gain some confidence after consecutive strong performances from Terrell.
After only playing eight minutes combined against Cal and Stanford, Terrell scored 11 points in the second half against Colorado, leading the Trojans with 14 points in Utah.
Terrell needs to improve his shot selection, plus holding on to the basketball is a must for the talented shooting guard. Although only committing three turnovers this week, bad shots further increased that total propelling easy points in transition.
Expect Head Coach Kevin O’Neill to reward Terrell with more playing time, on a part-time basis, with the high-tempo Oregon teams heading to Southern California this week.
Trojan Bench: B-
Coach Kevin O’Neill continues to befuddle critics with an inconsistent rotation that leaves the roster in constant flux. Aaron Fuller was benched from the starting lineup in Utah, instilling JT Terrell with the bulk of the playing time in his place.
After playing both games last week, including the final minutes against Stanford, Brendyn Taylor only registered 21 minutes in two games of action. Chass Bryan is starting to mature off the bench, making smarter choices with the basketball while also being assertive on the offensive end.
Omar Oraby played a limited role this road trip, mostly due to foul trouble, leaving the Trojans front court to Eric Wise and Dewayne Dedmon. As the Pac-12 season continues, expect KO to continue fluctuating the lineup to find favorable match ups with his flexible roster.