USC left no doubt Monday night, as the 24th ranked Trojans took care of business against Dixie State, winning 98-71.
The Trojans won the opening tip-off, scored on its first possession and never trailed (nor were they tied) for a single solitary second of the game. USC caught fire from three early in the game, and were able to jump out to a 19-5 lead in the first 6 minutes of play. In the opening minutes, Boogie Ellis, Ethan Anderson and Isaiah Mobley all drained three balls, which in turn opened the floor up to easy buckets at all three levels.
USC shot a staggering 58% from the field in the first half, and were led on the scoring front by Mobley, Ellis, Anderson and Freshman Reece Dixon-Waters. Mobley led the way with 11 first half points, and 4 assists. Mobley's ability to quickly pass out of double-teams, resulted in a number of easy finishes down low for his teammates. Mobley's aptitude and unselfish play allow Coach Enfield to be extremely creative with his offensive game planning, as he can attack defenses from the perimeter with his much improved jump shooting, inside with a newly established left-hand or with his passing. In short, Mobley is going to be a problem, and our future opponents will prioritize slowing down the Junior Forward.
Ellis and Anderson were both efficient from the field en route to 17 combined points, on 7-11 shooting. Anderson, who once again earned the starting nod, has been deadly accurate from three, now converting 50% of his three point attempts through 4 games. Anderson's comfort with his jump shot, coupled with Ellis' ability to attack and pass have been a good formula for Enfield in the early goings of the season. This USC team can win in so many ways, and it is encouraging to see Coach Andy utilize his many different pieces to yield positive results.
After Chevez Goodwin found himself in early foul trouble, Joshua Morgan and Reece Dixon-Waters were given significant run time in the first period. Morgan made a larger impact on the defensive end, altering what seemed like 10 shots in the first half alone. Dixon-Waters has impressed me a bunch in his game time this year. He is so physical and plays with great awareness and effort. While still early in his Trojan career, it appears that the reclassification was a wise move and he appears to be a step up on his fellow freshman. Dixon-Waters converted 2-3 from deep in the first half, and established a career high 9 points. If Isaiah White continues to struggle off the bench, I would not be shocked to see Reece steal some minutes in the upcoming games.
The Trojan defense appeared to be well on its way to another stellar shut down performance, after holding the Trailblazers to a 3-20 start from the field. Credit to Dixie State who did not give up, and continued to run its offense, and finished the first half converting 10 of their final 15 shots. USC's defense appeared lazy, and were often late to rotate, switch and flat out missed assignments. Enfield was visibly upset as the Trojans carried an 11 point lead into the half.
Dixie State continued its efficiency and made it's first 4 shots of the second half, to cut the lead to single digits. Back-to-back threes from Boogie Ellis pushed the USC lead to 13 with 16 minutes remaining, and USC flat out dominated the rest of the game, going on a 20-4 run over a 5 minute span. The Trojan defense led to easy transition points, and it was great to see the defensive intensity pick up. The Trojans switched, closed-out and rotated with speed and precision, and Dixie State could not manage to find clean looks.
Ellis finished with 19 points to lead the Trojans, followed closely by Max Agbonkpolo, who added a career high 17. Agbonkpolo showed tremendous patience throughout the game, and flashed a new element of his game, the offense rebound. He is so big and so fast that he is a tricky body to box out. Max was able to drain 3 three pointers in this game after another rough start. You can sense that Enfield has encouraged him to continue shooting, as he has obviously seen what the wing is capable of. While we are still a way's out from UCLA, I believe Max will earn the start in that game, and match up with one of Juzang, Bernard or Jaquez. His success on the defensive end, will warrant the start, and offensive production is a gigantic plus.
In the end the Trojans were able to finish this one off without much commotion. Mobley, Goodwin and Anderson all reached double figures, and the Trojans concluded the game shooting 53% and holding Dixie State to 31% from the field.
I did not expect this to be a close game, as there was a huge gap in talent alone. That being said, the confidence a player like Agbonkpolo or Reece Dixon-Waters earns from this game cannot be overstated. These are players who will be asked to play meaningful minutes at some point this season, and knowing that they have performed at a high level before is a massive advantage.
The Trojans enter an important part of their schedule in the upcoming weeks, as they take on some of the more prominent out-of-conference teams on their schedule. This begins with St. Joe's on Thanksgiving. St. Joes competes in the Atlantic 10, which is considered a mid/high tier mid-major. These are games that matter come Selection Sunday, and an excellent opportunity to match up against a more complete roster.
Until then, Fight On!