Max Analysis: The Squeaker

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November 16, 2013 by Max Meyer

By Max Meyer

After USC suffered a Stanley Johnson hangover in the first half after the top prospect committed to Arizona earlier today, the Trojans rallied in the second half to beat North Arizona 67-63 behind a career-high 31 points from Byron Wesley. USC trailed 40-30 at the half, but went on a 20-6 run at the start of the second half that was highlighted by a Julian Jacobs alley-oop on a pass from Pe’Shon Howard. Let’s dig deeper into why USC won such a close game at the Galen Center despite being 16.5-point favorites over the Lumberjacks.

One Thing I Liked: Byron Wesley’s Performance

Wesley made only 11 of his 32 field-goal attempts in USC’s first two games, good for 34 percent from the field. At the start of the game however, it was easy to tell that Wesley would be the main guy for the Trojans on offense. He kept USC in the game after a lackluster first half, by making all seven of his first-half shots and scoring 16 of USC’s 30 first-half points.

Although Wesley did eventually miss in the second half, he had a big three-point basket with just over 12 minutes left in the game, which was USC’s first of the game, that tied the contest at 44. He also made two free throws that tied the game at 63 with a minute and 40 seconds left. After a missed Northern Arizona three-point attempt, Omar Oraby made the game-winning layup with 54 seconds left after a nice pass inside from Pe’Shon Howard.

Wesley finished extremely well down the stretch, he had eight points in the final eight minutes of the game. He needed to step up this game, especially since fellow captain J.T. Terrell missed all six of his shots from the field, including four three-point attempts.

Wesley also helped in different aspects. After finishing last game with a career-high 11 rebounds, he finished with a team-high nine boards on Friday night. Wesley drove into the paint often, and forced Northern Arizona into foul trouble early in both halves. His leadership ultimately guided the Trojans to a second-half comeback victory.

One Thing I Didn’t Like: USC’s Rebounding

At first glance, this may be confusing since the Trojans had more rebounds in the game. However, despite a 45-41 advantage in the total rebound department, USC surrendered a lot of offensive rebounds to the Lumberjacks.

Northern Arizona ended up with 18 offensive rebounds in the game. Four of their players had multiple offensive boards, and three of them were shorter than 6’8″. Considering USC had a seven-footer on the floor at all times in either Oraby or D.J. Haley, the fact that they allowed Northern Arizona that many second chances is inexcusable.

“When the ball was up for grabs, [Northern Arizona] seemed to get almost every one. Our players have to be strong, we got our hands on a lot of balls, but they kept coming up with it,” said coach Andy Enfield after the game. “I give them credit, and it’s certainly something that we need to work on.”

Northern Arizona scored 16 second-chance points, and easily could have won the game had they converted on more of those opportunities. USC will not get those same breaks when they play better competition, especially in Pac-12 play.

Quick Hits:

1. After a strong first game from the free throw line, the Trojans have struggled from the charity stripe. After making only 16 of 26 from the line against Cal State Northridge, they regressed once again versus Northern Arizona. They scored on just over 50 percent of their free throws, making 19 of them on 36 attempts. The two big men, Oraby and Haley, combined to make five free throws on 13 attempts.

2. USC also struggled from the outside as well. They made only two three-pointers this game, one from Wesley and one from Howard, both of them coming in the second half. They’ve been very inconsistent from three-point land this year. Against Utah State, they made four of them on 24 attempts, while versus Cal State Northridge they went 7 of 16. In fact, there’s been just one USC player, J.T. Terrell, who’s made one three-pointer in multiple games this season. Yet, Terrell did not continue his three-point streak this game, missing all four of his attempts on Friday.

3. Speaking of Terrell, I thought it was very interesting that Enfield put him in late in the game as a defensive substitution. Chass Bryan and Brendyn Taylor are better on-ball defenders, and Terrell allowed his man to get open on back to back possessions in the final minute.

4. USC had only eight turnovers this game, the second time this season they’ve had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game. This is a major improvement from last year’s team, especially considering in one game that Jio Fontan committed 10 turnovers by himself.

5. With the Trojans only winning by four points, they are now 1-2 against the spread this season. Vegas had the point total for this game set at 160. Since the two teams scored 130 points, the UNDER was the successful bet. In USC’s three contests this season, the UNDER has been the winning bet in every single game.

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