USC basketball vs. Florida A-M score, recap: Okongwu stars in win

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC basketball and freshman star Onyeka Okongwu notched their first win of the 2019-20 season on Tuesday night, blasting Florida A&M, 77-48, at the Galen Center.

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The lowdown:

The Trojans ran away from the Florida A&M Rattlers, 77-48, thanks to an outstanding debut from freshman forward Onyeka Okungwu, with 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks, tying a USC record in his first career game.

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It wasn’t all smooth sailing for USC, who started slow and struggled to pull away from the outmatched-on-paper Rattlers.

A&M’s Kamron Reaves opened the scoring from beyond the arc, but Okongwu put the Trojans back in control with a couple of dunks.

Though Okongwu left little doubt about his impact, with three early blocks along with those contributions on the offensive end, the Trojans simply found it difficult to score in the opening period.

That problem was exacerbated by woes at the foul line. USC shot nine free throws in the first half and made just one.

As a result, they went into the break leading 24-23, having never gone ahead by more than three points.

They opened the second half more emphatically, with Okongwu as the focal point. On the first two possessions he laid in a basket and then slammed in a dunk. That set up a 6-0 run for the Trojans, who quickly opened up a double-digit lead at 39-29 after five minutes played. Encouragingly, a trio of made Isaiah Mobley free throws got them there.

The advantage only grew as freshman Max Agbongpolo made his first appearance and hit a three-pointer. Nick Rakocevic’s layup put the Trojans up by 20 at 56-35. He fouled out shortly after, at the eight-minute mark, but the Trojans didn’t need their senior big man. Opening night was all about the young new stars.

The takeaway:

Okongwu’s debut will go down in the record books as one of the most impressive in Trojan history. His 20 points were the most in a first outing since 2007. He controlled the boards with a game-leading 13 rebounds. And he was a defensive stalwart with his eight blocks.

His performance will rightly dominate the headlines. He was the only Trojan who truly looked at the races in the first half and he set the tone in the blowout to follow.

Okongwu wasn’t the only youngster who gave USC fans reason to hope for a productive season though.

Mobley added 17 points of his own, coming alive in the second half after posting an 0-for-2 mark from the field and an 0-for-3 mark from the free throw line in the first half.

Ethan Anderson’s shot wasn’t on—he was 1-of-6—but he led the team with seven assists and also added five rebounds and two steals.

In fact, it wasn’t a strong shooting night across the board, particularly from distance. The Trojans were 1-of-8 in the first half and finished 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.

It didn’t matter because USC wasn’t living and dying on their shooting on Tuesday night. With 50 points in the paint, they didn’t need to.

Andy Enfield’s new look squad passed their first test. More challenging opposition will come down the line, opposition which may make the Trojans pay more harshly for another iffy first half, but the future looks bright.

Player of the game: Onyeka Okongwu with a double-double in his debut.

Stat of the game: Okongwu’s eight blocks tied a USC record, which is shared by Avondre Jones (1995 vs. Rhode Island), Gerry Wright (1982 vs. Santa Clara) and Steve Malovic (1975 vs. Howard)

Next on tap: USC will take on the Portland Pilots at the Galen Center on Friday, Nov. 8 at 8:00 p.m. The Pilots were 0-16 in the West Coast Conference last year.

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