USC basketball doesn’t generate the headlines or anger of USC football, but the Trojans are in an equally dire position with Andy Enfield at the helm.
USC basketball closed out their Arizona road trip with a loss in the final minute against ASU on Saturday night, 66-64.
Playing in a hostile environment against a Sun Devil team that had won four of their last five and losing by two when Remy Martin hit a jump shot with 20 seconds remaining? That’s not so bad…right?
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Don’t be fooled. The loss in Tempe was yet another example of the frailty of another talented and underperforming Trojan team.
It was the third loss in a row for now 17-7 USC, dropping head coach Andy Enfield’s record in February to an unbelievably awful 14-34.
Twitter user @wsbeans might have put it best on Saturday night: “Enfield in February is as bad as Pete [Carroll] was great in November.”
Carroll’s November exceptionalism ensured his teams secured Pac-12 titles and landed in big bowl games. Enfield’s disastrous February’s have kept good Trojan teams from getting to the NCAA tournament, let alone winning a conference title.
They were on the brink of making a run at it this year. Going into February, USC was in the position to take the top spot in the Pac-12. A home win over a ranked Colorado team would not only set them up in first place but would make a statement about their potential for a serious run in the tournament.
Instead, the Trojans floundered. They were battered by the Buffaloes in a 78-57 loss.
The following Thursday they fell further behind with a loss to Arizona, 85-80. That score was generous to USC, who trailed by as many as 20 points and mounted a futile comeback in the waning minutes that didn’t truly worry the Wildcats.
Saturday’s action had the look of a true bounceback. The then 14-8 Sun Devils came into the game fairly hot, but it was USC who came out firing. The Trojans took a quick 10-2 lead and went ahead by as many as 13 late in the half.
The second half was a study in bad basketball from both teams.
USC squandered their lead, trailing for the first time, 52-51 thanks to Romellow White’s two free throws with 13 minutes to play.
With 11:28 on the clock, Martin threw down a fastbreak dunk to put ASU up by four. The Sun Devils wouldn’t hit another shot from the field until Martin’s game-winning shot with 19 seconds remaining.
During that stretch, which included 14 consecutive missed shots for ASU, USC regained a lead but they ultimately squandered it. They were held scoreless in the final two minutes while the Sun Devils finished the game on a 7-0 run.
How was that even possible? Because the Trojans lacked all composure to see out a very winnable game. They committed 24 turnovers across the entire game, the most for USC in 2019-20, but 16 of those came in the second half.
USC also missed opportunities from the free throw line. They went 7-of-17 at the line, hitting just 8-of-14 in the second half. Six “free” points were squandered in a game the Trojans lost by two.
Nor were USC’s efforts on the boards sufficient to find victory. ASU had 17 offensive rebounds. The Sun Devils’ poor shooting resulted in just 12 second-chance points, otherwise, the game could have looked much worse for the Trojans.
The contest ended with possession in USC’s hands. Guard Ethan Anderson, who fouled Martin on a three-point shot to tie the game with two minutes to go and missed two free throws in the final minute, kept the ball in his hands, drove, was stopped in his tracks and forced a desperation pass back to Jonah Mathews, who heaved an airball as time expired.
That’s not on the true freshman. That’s on the head coach who had the benefit of a timeout to set up the play he wanted.
A final play like that may be a fireable offense on its own.
Unfortunately, that kind of late-game ineptitude is familiar to USC fans.
Enfield’s mismanagement of a team with more than enough talent to run away with an unstable Pac-12 has infuriated the USC fans who haven’t already opted to tune out. The Trojans have fallen from the verge of first place to fifth in the matter of a week.
On Saturday, star forward Onyeka Okongwu, who has been USC’s most consistent performer all season, had just two shots and five points. Failure to get him more involved is on Enfield.
The Trojans’ poor free throw shooting, which has been a problem for years, is on Enfield.
Lack of preparation, whether on in-bounds passes or late-game plays, is on Enfield.
Struggles taking on the full-court press are also on Enfield.
ASU guard Jaelen House was quoted by Jacob Rudner of Sun Devil Source after the game saying head coach Bobby Hurley saw USC’s weakness in that department on film, “They’re very shaky when we were watching film…Coach said they’re shaky and we just needed to try to get up in there.”
Opponent coaches taking advantage of known issues? That’s definitely on Enfield.
USC fans on Twitter aren’t blind to these problems. And many are at their wit’s end watching the same thing game after game, season after season.
At this point, the Trojans hopes of making the NCAA tournament are in serious jeopardy. It would be the third straight season of no March Madness for USC.
Enfield has done one thing right. He has recruited exceptionally well.
But what’s the point of recruiting well if the star players you bring in never reach their full potential as individuals or as a team?
As USC football has discovered, winning recruiting titles doesn’t necessarily put silverware in your trophy cabinet.