Final Score: Rider 77 – USC 57
Depth caught up to USC tonight. Playing their third game in six days, the Trojans couldn’t handle the rigors with a seven man rotation and came out flat. Rider never trailed, and they made a living knocking down open threes because USC was late coming over to get a hand in their face. The Trojans showed some grit early, tieing the game at 23 despite trailing by 9 early. However, Rider never looked back from that point and cruised.
The precision with which the Broncs shot the ball was astounding. They knocked down 60% of their shots and 63% from beyond the arc (12-19). Most impressively, Justin Robinson went off, going 9-10 and 5-5 from three point land. He got many open looks and deserves credit for knocking them down. USC limited them in the late minutes once they turned up the pressure, but it was too little too late. They began the game lax on defense (probably a function of being tired) and they were never able to match Rider’s torrid pace.
USC’s free throw shooting was pathetic. They finished 5-10, which is terrible. In addition, they started 2-11 and gave away free points when they needed them to build momentum. The offense struggled against a zone once again. USC couldn’t knock down shots to shoot out of the zone. They were 37% from the floor and had several very cold stretches. They couldn’t work the ball inside and didn’t really have an offense. We saw some of the same problems as 2009 when the offense went completely stale and devoid of movement. This problem occurred at times the past two games, but Maurice Jones was able to create penetration and take over. After playing two full games, he just didn’t have the energy tonight. Vucevic got in foul trouble early, and was limited which didn’t help. Donte Smith and Mo Jones led USC scorers with 13.
The officiating wasn’t particularly great. It didn’t affect the outcome, but the officials called a very tight game when Rider had the ball and swallowed the whistle when USC was on offense.
Tonight’s loss doesn’t warrant hitting the panic button. USC was playing for the third time in just six days and you could see it in their play. Maurice Jones has played 120 minutes and you can’t expect him to dominate like he did Monday given these circumstances. USC struggled early last year as well until Mike Gerrity ran the point. When Jio Fontan returns, USC will have more depth and their play should improve considerably. Right now, its about holding down the fort until he returns and putting the team in a good position to make a run for an NCAA bid come Pac-10 play.
One incident that deserves mention is the amateur display of composure by Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. In the first half, he received a technical foul and the student section got on his case from that point on, myself included. When Rider had the game sealed up late, Dempsey walked down to the corner and started barking at the student section, taunting them. While his team was winning, Dempsey’s amateur display makes me wonder if he will ever be an elite coach. He showed incredibly thin skin. Do you think Kevin O’Neill would ever do something like that? Not a chance. Enjoy the CBI tournament sir.