Max Analysis: USC Wins First Game Of The Season

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November 17, 2014 by Max Meyer

Katin Reinhardt (Seth Rubinroit/Galen Central)

Katin Reinhardt (Seth Rubinroit/Galen Central)

By Max Meyer

After a demoralizing loss to Portland State on Saturday, USC bounced back to pull off a 70-58 win over Tennessee Tech. Katin Reinhardt led the way with 19 points, and Jordan McLaughlin had another strong game with 15 points and seven assists. It definitely was not the prettiest of wins for the Trojans, as the team committed 17 turnovers. But getting a home win before the team leaves for the Charleston tournament seemed to lift the monkey off of USC’s back.

One Thing I Liked: On-Ball Defense

One of the big reasons why USC lost to Portland State was the team’s inability to cause turnovers. In that game, USC defenders were often giving the ball handler a lot of space, and didn’t force much pressure.

Tonight, USC switched to a zone defense and would pressure the ball handler by playing much closer to him than last game.

“[On-ball defense] was much better. We made a big emphasis not to get blown by into the middle,” said USC coach Andy Enfield. “For the most part, our players defended the ball and closed out on shooters.”

Tennessee Tech shot 1-18 on three-point attempts. A major reason why was the pressure that USC defenders set on the perimeter tonight. The Trojans blocked five shots tonight as well.

Granted, there are cons to running a zone defense. One of the big ones is that it’s much harder to rebound out of a zone compared to a man-to-man defense. USC gave up 22 offensive rebounds, and the Trojans were lucky that Tennessee Tech only winded up with 18 second-chance points. Enfield said that the team would have to improve its rebounding when in a zone defense.

One Thing I DIdn’t Like: Nikola Jovanovic

Jovanovic was widely considered to be one of the most important players on the team this year, but he sure hasn’t played like it in the first two games. He scored only seven points tonight on 1-6 shooting from the field. In fact, he’s shooting 25 percent from the floor so far this season.

In 26 minutes of play, Jovanovic only had three rebounds. As one of USC’s only big men who receives significant playing time, his rebounding numbers need to be stronger. On a positive note, Jovanovic did cut his turnovers from six last game to two tonight.

The Trojans need Jovanovic to be a legitimate threat to score in the paint and on the perimeter. The offense has been very guard-heavy thus far. USC was at its best last season when Jovanovic made a big impact in the game and scored in double figures.

Jovanovic has gained a lot of muscle in the offseason, and maybe he needs more time to figure out his role adjustment this year. If he doesn’t find his rhythm soon, USC could be in major trouble.

Quick Hits:

1. All five of USC’s starters (Jordan McLaughlin, Julian Jacobs, Katin Reinhardt, Nikola Jovanovic and Malik Martin) have had multiple turnovers in each of the first two games. In fact, the starting lineup has accounted for 35 of the team’s 40 turnovers on the season.

2. At one point in the game, USC’s offense went 13 minutes and 18 seconds without making a single field goal.

3. USC attempted 34 free throws tonight, and only six of the attempts came in the final two minutes. The Trojans were a lot more effective driving into the paint tonight, and it paid off.

4. Reinhardt’s 19 points were just two away from his career-high. He scored 21 points twice during his freshman season at UNLV.

5. USC was an 8.5-point favorite vs. Tennessee Tech, and the point total was 144.5. USC is 1-1 against the spread this season, and the UNDER is surprisingly 2-0.

6. USC’s next game is against Akron at the Charleston Classic on November 20 at 9:30 a.m. PST.

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