January 23, 2014 by Russell Simon
It seemed as though the 2013-14 USC Men’s Basketball season hit their nadir following the team’s Rocky Mountain road trip last week. The Trojans fell behind 20-2 in their battle versus the Buffaloes and never contended in an 86-62 loss that dropped them to the lowest rung in the Pac-12 standings. But only four days after they were smoked in Boulder, the Trojans earned their first conference win of the season, leading the whole way in a 77-69 win over the previously Pac-12 undefeated Cal Golden Bears.
“We had a very frustrating couple of weeks,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “I’m very proud of our players because they kept practicing extremely hard, they had great attitudes and had a lot of enthusiasm. They came out and played that way tonight.”
The Trojans exploded out of the gate, shooting 55 percent in the first half and building a lead that ballooned to 15 points at one point.
“Tonight we made shots early and that just energized us further,” Enfield said. Two of the key shot-makers early were guard Byron Wesley and forward Nikola Jovanovic, who knocked down several jumpers apiece in the first half. Wesley played 38 minutes, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting while adding 4 assists and 7 rebounds.
“It was huge to get a Pac-12 win,” Wesley said. “I was able to get going early and my teammates did a great job of finding me early for open shots. From that point on we were just clicking.”
Jovanovic, meanwhile, had his best game of the season, scoring a career-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting. USC is 8-1 this season when Jovanovic scores in double figures.
“If he plays like he played tonight there will be many more nights like this,” Enfield said. Jovanovic was also a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line, which helped the Trojans shoot 16-of-22 overall from the charity stripe. The Trojans had 18 assists to Cal’s 12, and only turned the ball over 11 times. They also won the rebounding battle 37-33, only one game after getting out-rebounded 43-23 in Colorado. Wesley and Omar Oraby each collected seven boards for the Trojans.
Freshman guard Julian Jacobs also added 12 points in one of his best games of the season. He had 4 assists, but no turnovers while shooting 5-of-6 from the field while coming off the bench. “I just wanted to step in and do what coach wanted me to do,” Jacobs said.
The Trojans’ victory snapped Cal’s six-game winning streak, and got the Trojans out of the basement of the Pac-12. Despite this win, USC’s upcoming schedule is quite daunting. The Trojans face Stanford at home on Sunday, and then have a road trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on Oregon and Oregon State. Then they return home to face UCLA, after having lost to them 107-73 earlier in the year at Pauley Pavilion.
The Trojans know they have their work cut out for them. “We have a tough game on Sunday against Stanford,” Enfield said. “We’re fortunate to win this game because we played well, but we have to come back and face another great team on Sunday.”