December 29, 2013 by Marshall Kelner
By Marshall Kelner
After a sloppy first half, the USC Trojans came out strong in the second and cruised past the Howard Bison 82-60 to close non-conference play at (9-4) under first-year head coach Andy Enfield. They now have a week off before opening conference play next Sunday against rival UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Wesley Strong Again
Following a 26-point performance last Sunday to lead the Trojans to an upset win at Dayton, Byron Wesley poured in 20 (8-for-12 FG) and added eight rebounds. Maybe most importantly, he knocked down a pair of threes, as his outside shot continues to improve. Wesley finished non-conference play as USC’s leading scorer (16.8) and rebounder (7.2). It will be interesting to see how Pac-12 teams defend Wesley, now that he has emerged as the go-to guy for the Trojans.
Cashing in From Deep
USC’s struggles from behind the arc so far this season have been well documented. Today, they flipped the script. The Trojans poured in 7-for-16 from downtown (43.8 percent), a welcome sign if they can keep it going headed into conference play. Omar Oraby, despite another rough scoring game (six points), has the potential to be a force inside. If USC can’t consistently knock down outside jumpers, however, teams will swarm Oraby down low. If they shoot like they did in this game, Oraby will have more room to operate inside and teams will have to respect them from the perimeter.
Tale of Two Halves
USC was a 23-point favorite, but only had a 29-26 lead at the break. The Trojans opened the second half on an 8-0 run and pretty much rolled from there, outscoring the Bison 53-34.
J.T. Solid in Relief
In his second game back after being academically cleared, J.T. Terrell once again came off the bench, but this time had a much larger impact. The senior captain finished with 18 points in 23 minutes. He is known to be quite streaky, and today was no exception. Terrell made his first five shots, but finished 2-for-8. He knocked down three of his seven three-point attempts. If Terrell and Wesley can be consistent scoring threats from the perimeter, the Trojans could be quite dangerous offensively in conference play.
Interesting Stat Line
Pe’Shon Howard hit the game-winning three last Sunday at Dayton, but only attempted one field goal against Howard and didn’t enter the scoring column. He did, however, tally nine assists and seven rebounds. It’s safe to assume that Howard will have to score as well as distribute if the Trojans hope to be a factor in the Pac-12. He has done that so far this season, averaging nearly 12 points per game. When he has had some of his bigger scoring games, however, the Trojans have come up short. Occasionally, Howard is too aggressive and tries to force things. So, it’s nice to see him play the role of distributor and play more in control, albeit against a weak opponent.
Freshman Nikola Jovanovic continued his emergence with his best game yet. The big man tied a career-high with 15 points (5-for-7 FG) and also added six rebounds. He hit both of his three-point attempts. Jovanovic is averaging 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first season, and has scored in double digits in each of his past six games. He is shooting over 54 percent on the year. Jovanovic could be a solid weapon in conference play with his ability to stretch the floor and also rebound inside. He seems to get better every time out.
Too Many Turnovers
The biggest negative for USC was the 20 turnovers they committed, while only forcing 11. Pe’Shon Howard and Julian Jacobs, the starting back court for SC, had five apiece. Byron Wesley and Omar Oraby each committed three. That is not a recipe for success in Pac-12 play and something the Trojans have struggled with all year long. Dead ball turnovers won’t kill you, but USC has allowed other teams to get out in transition far too much. We all know that Andy Enfield wants his team to run. The Trojans have to value the ball more if they want to do that and avoid seeing other teams get easy buckets on the fast break.
The Trojans have a full week off before traveling across town to face UCLA in their Pac-12 opener next Sunday.
Never heard of Howard? Think again. In the song “Make Me Proud,” Drake mentions the school, which is based in Washington D.C.
Like you went to Yale, but you probably went to Howard