USC Rammed By VCU In First Four of NCAA Tournament


USC’s season came to an uneventful end as the Trojans fell to VCU 59-46 in Dayton, Ohio as part of the inaugural “First Four” round of the NCAA tournament. For the year, the Trojans posted a 19-15 record. They made a tremendous run to reach the tournament, but Wednesday’s lackluster effort was not a great showing. As Kevin O’Neill pointed out, many of these players were in the big dance for the first time, and the future looks bright.

The Trojans netted just 46 points and went well over 6 minutes without a field goal in the second half. The team looked tight, and the ball just wouldn’t go down for them.

On defense, USC did enough to win the game. The Trojans lost for the first time when surrendering less than 60 points. At times VCU was able to get open looks from beyond the arc, but many of those chances came off lucky bounces. Long rebounds and loose balls off of blocked shots led to a few VCU threes. As a team, the Rams shot 33.9% despite making 9 of 24 (37.5%) beyond the arc. At times, USC was lazy with their footwork and got in to foul trouble, but the final totals point to the Trojans doing a satisfactory job.

Five things killed USC:

They shot just 1-9 from beyond the arc.

It wasn’t a pretty night from the floor by any means, but it was even uglier from downtown. With the big men getting double teamed and completely taken out of the offense, USC needed their guards to step up with the perimeter shooting. Trojan fans knew it would be a long day when Donte Smith missed his first two attempts which were wide open, but they couldn’t have imagined him going 0-6 and the team shooting just 11.1% from three.

Virginia Commonwealth grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.

The Trojans were out-rebounded by 6 in total, but the amount of offensive boards VCU pulled down was ridiculous. USC didn’t do a good job of boxing out and it killed them. You simply can’t allow a team to have second and third looks because it kills your morale on defense and exponentially increases the chances the opponent scores. I’d venture to say it is impossible to beat a team when they take 21 more shots than you.

The Trojans turned it over 15 times and lost the turnover battle by 7.

USC was sloppy with the ball and played right into VCU’s hands. The Rams wanted to use a pressure defense to throw the Trojans off and they did not do a good job of handling that pressure. They made bad passes with defenders in their face and it prevented them from putting together good basketball for long stretches.

USC went just 15-25 from the charity stripe.

The Trojans had several chances to make a run and even take the lead in the second half, but they missed a plethora of free throws. When you can’t hit the three ball and you’re losing, free throws are the great equalizer. USC did a fantastic job at the line, but they reverted back to their old ways and missed way too many.

Foul trouble was an issue all night.

With a team that runs a seven man rotation, it is important to stay out of foul trouble so that the coach isn’t limited in his substitutions. Unfortunately, Fontan, Vucevic and Simmons fouled out and Alex Stepheson was called for four fouls. Because they were in foul trouble all night, they had to be less aggressive on defense and could not contest shots like they normally would.