We should all be worried. Worried to the point that I need to diverge from my typical post-game format, there was not enough good and way too much ugly for the usual “Good, Bad & Ugly” formula to work here.
Since returning from the Covid-19 pause, the USC Trojans have played 4 games. The first game, was a hard fought win against an improved Cal team. Stanford then dealt USC its first loss of the season, 3 days later. USC returned home and required a herculean effort from an inspired Chevez Goodwin to take down Oregon State, and most recently, USC was dominated by Oregon. For those keeping track, after starting the season 13-0, USC is 1-2 in its last three games, and save for a 15 minute run against Oregon State, has looked like a shell of its previous self. Perhaps it is a bit of complacency, or maybe an effect of the virus, but USC’s looks tired and slow on the court.
The Ducks took the opening tip-off, scored on their first possession, and never trailed for the entire game. Oregon simply outpaced, outhustled, outshot, and most importantly outplayed USC en route to the 79-69 victory. USC’s depth and size were no match for Dana Altman’s Ducks who are certainly trending in the right direction after an impressive road sweep of the LA schools.
Most concerning to me was just how easily Oregon contained the combination of Mobley and Goodwin. The Oregon front court led by N’Faly Dante and Franck Kepnang controlled the interior amassing 6 blocks and altering about a dozen others. The shots that Goodwin and Mobley have consistently made were no longer available, and USC’s offense looked lost without this component. Statistically, Mobley still had 18 points to lead the way (along with Boogie Ellis who also had 18) but it was apparent that USC was skittish inside. Goodwin only attempted 6 shots, and only had 7 points, the majority were conversions after offensive rebounds.
With the offense searching for an identity, Boogie was required to shoulder the majority of the offensive burden, and for the first half he seemed up to the task. Ellis hit 4 three pointers, but was just 7-21 from the field. I have faith that Boogie will pick up his play, he just needs to improve shot selection and distribute a little bit more.
The biggest concerns from this game, and really the 3 game stretch are untimely turnovers and our perimeter defense. Oregon made 10-21 three point attempts, capitalized by Will Richardson’s 5-8. Richardson was the best player on the court, and scored 28 for the Ducks. USC offered little to no resistance in transition, and Oregon took full advantage. The Ducks outpaced USC 15-3 in fast break points. Anytime USC made a mini-run and cut the lead to single digits, Oregon would respond with a quick three. Dagger after dagger from Richardson, Da’vion Harmon or Eric Williams. Oregon finished shooting 50% from the field, and the game was never really in doubt.
USC also seemed panicked in this game, which is very troubling. Any time USC had a bit of momentum, cut into the deficit, an out of control guard would act without intention and either throw a ball away, lose themselves in traffic or toss up an ill-advised, low percentage shot. While USC’s 13 turnovers are not the end of the world, the timing and type of turnover was the killer.
Stanford set the blue print for stopping USC, Oregon followed suit and now it will be up to Andy Enfield, the coaches and the players to game plan around this. USC is clearly a very talented team, and perhaps the deadly combination of a red-hot Oregon team, lingering covid issues and 3 games in 5 days took its toll in this game.
The Trojans will return to the court tomorrow against Colorado. The mountain trip is always a tough one, since you are battling 2 opponents, the opposing team, and altitude. If the Trojans’ conditioning is not up to par, it will show immediately. USC depth will assist a little, but Andy needs to be able to lean on his stars for big plays and big minutes.
There is no love lost between Andy Enfield and Tad Boyle, and this is a must win for USC, and a golden opportunity to right the ship!
I will provide a quick preview tomorrow, but remain optimistic that we can turn the page from last week, and move on. USC is currently ranked 16th, and will have some great chances to improve its tournament seeding as conference play continues.