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Florida Gulf Coast Recap and Dixie State Preview

A special edition 2 for 1 coming your way today. The first portion of this post will be a recap of the FGCU game, followed by a preview of tonight's game against Dixie State.

After this past weekend's embarrassment of a football game, I am excited to get back to Trojan Basketball, where the now #24 ranked Trojans will put their undefeated record on the line twice this week, first against Dixie State and then against St. Joe's.

The Trojans improved to 3-0 after a comfortable 78-61 victory over Florida Gulf Coast. It was particularly satisfying to see Coach Enfield return to his former school and deliver a resounding win, one that was capitalized by superior talent and strategy. Coach Enfield put together a great game plan to take advantage of mismatches, especially inside. The combination of Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin were efficient and effective. Goodwin finished the game with 20 points on 10-15 shooting, and Mobley tallied 13 points coupled with an even more impressive 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Mobley displayed an amazing feel for the offense and was able to showcase his passing ability, delivering beautiful pass after beautiful pass often in a crowded paint area. In fact, Mobley assisted on 4 of Goodwin's 10 field goals. Mobley also hit 3-4 from beyond the arc, the last two essentially put the game out of reach. The Trojans are a versatile team, and no player exhibits the do it all mentality of this roster than Mobley. He is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence, and we will look for him to take the next step in his scoring as we approach December, and some of our tougher games.

As great as Mobley and Goodwin were against the Eagles, our game MVP goes to Trojan Guard Boogie Ellis. Statistically, Ellis scored 18 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 6 assists of his own. We saw in the opener against CSUN how quickly Ellis can catch fire, and how difficult he can be to defend. FGCU experienced a lot of Boogie Ellis on both ends of the court. Ellis has publicly stated that he has been hard at work on his defense, and we can see the fruits of his labor already showing. Ellis played tenacious defense, and helped the Trojans keep yet another opponent under 40% from the field. Ellis will be tasked with slowing down some of the better guards in the nation this year (Tyger Campbell, Will Richardson, Marreon Jackson, etc.), so it is nice to see him putting in good work and acclimating to Enfield's defensive scheme so early.

Another unexpected surprise from Tuesday's game was the starting role of Max Agbonkpolo. Our affinity for Max is no secret, as he is dripping with length, athleticism and speed. Where Max has faltered has been his long range shooting and his tendency to get a bit out of control. We saw both Tuesday. Max was tasked with slowing down FGCU's leading scorer Tavian Dunn-Martin, who stands about a foot shorter than the lanky Agbonkpolo. Max gave the Eagle guard fits as Dunn-Martin only scored 9 points on 2-8 shooting and 1-5 from deep. Dunn-Martin seemed panicked and forced a bunch of shots. In a foot race alone, Agbonkpolo is most likely the fastest player on the team (although Ellis may have something to say about it) and he showed that he can keep pace with a smaller guard who weaves through the floor. Max had four steals, and got deflected 2 or 3 more leading to easy Trojan buckets. On the other end of the court, patience will continue to be a theme for Max. He was 0-4 from deep. He is a confident shooter, unfortunately his percentages do not yet warrant the frequency with which he has launched from three. From within the arc, Max has a great feel from close range, and converts at a high rate. If he can learn to lay off the first look and penetrate inside and in control, watch out!

Other important notes from Tuesday's victory.

A first career bucket for Malik Thomas in mop-up duty. Thomas, as you all may remember was the only player not to score in the season opener, he made sure to get his name in the scoring column with a beautiful fade away from the baseline. I am hopeful that once again Coach Enfield will be able to work the freshman into the game tonight. As we saw with Max on Dunn-Martin, all four freshman offer unique skillsets that may prove to be huge advantages as the season progresses. That may be Harrison Hornery's ability to shoot from deep, Kobe Johnson's size at the point, or the unique blend of strength and size from Reece Dixon-Waters or Thomas. This is a team that can run 11-12 men deep in a given game, but it is not fair to throw them into pressure-packed situations without much game time.

It was very cool to see some of the throwbacks and references to Enfield's Sweet 16 run at Alico Arena, and I am sure Coach Andy and his family had fun in their return to Florida.

Trojan free throw shooting must improve! USC was just 7-15 from the line, and this is simply unacceptable. It seems like this has been an issue for the past 5 years, and it is going to cost us a game if we do not improve. As I have said before, we need to identify our best two free throw shooters, and ensure that they get the ball come the end of the regulation. Ellis and Peterson are probably the two best on the team, but statistics do not lie, and they need to improve. There is no other way around it, clutch and consistent FT shooting in March wins titles, and we are not there yet.

That being said, I will take 3-0 and am excited to see the team play a few times this week! I will not be able to attend either game this week, but will be able to watch and will be tweeting live. As always, follow along at:

And now to Part 2 of this post, the Dixie State Preview.

First, for those of you who are wondering, Dixie State is not located in the South. Of all places, Dixie State will be visiting the Galen Center all the way from...St. George, Utah. That would not have been my first (or 15th guess) but there it is.

The Trailblazers will enter the Galen Center with a 1-3 record, in a schedule that has already featured #1 Gonzaga, and common Trojan opponent CSUN. The Trailblazers fell to the Zags 97-63 and CSUN 79-73. While I am not a fan of comparative scoring, it should be interesting to see if USC can match the Zags dominance in what should be a relatively simple game.

On the court, the Trailblazers are led by a pair of upper classmen in 6'8" Forward Hunter Schofield and 5'11" Guard Cameron Gooden. Schofield is averaging 16 points per game, and does most of his damage from mid-range. He is not a tremendous athlete, but is capable of creating space and he moves well without the ball. Gooden, on the other hand is a very good athlete, and very confident with the ball in his hands. Gooden plays with an Ethan Anderson-esque style of play. He is not afraid to take the ball into contact, and is a strong finisher. He is not a traditional spot up shooter, and gets to the foul line with regularity.

Although Schofield is the tallest starter for the Trailblazers, his style of play may draw an Isaiah Mobley matchup, but I expect the Trojans to run a zone and clog the inside of the paint and make the Blazers hit from outside.

Offensively, USC should have their way inside once again. I expect Goodwin and Mobley to both lead the way, supplemented by a healthy supply of Boogie Ellis, Drew Peterson and Isaiah White. As mentioned above, I would love to see the freshman get significant minutes in this one, as it should not be close for long. After nearly a week off, USC should be ready to play, and while it will not be a large crowd tonight, the Trojans will receive a boost from football-fatigued Trojan fans.

Trojans should put this one out of reach in the first half, and I expect a 25-35 point victory for the Trojans.

Fight On!

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