Max Analysis: USC Starts To Build Early-Season Momentum

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December 3, 2014 by Max Meyer

Katin Reinhardt (Seth Rubinroit/Galen Central)

Katin Reinhardt (Seth Rubinroit/Galen Central)

By Max Meyer

On a rainy Wednesday night in Los Angeles, USC played their best game offensive game of the season. The Trojans beat Loyola Marymount 77-61 at Galen Center. Four players scored in double figures, including freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin leading the way with 18 points. USC is now on a three-game winning streak, and is starting to build some early-season momentum after a couple tough losses.

One Thing I Liked: The Passing

USC came into tonight averaging 11.1 assists per game, which is the fewest amount in the Pac-12. Early on, the team kept making the extra pass and setting up easier shot opportunities on offense.

McLaughlin led the team with seven assists, but it seemed like almost everyone wanted to set up their teammates tonight. Nine different Trojans had at least one assist.

“I thought our shot selection and our lack of quick decision-making really hurt us [in the beginning of the season. We were turning the ball over at a high rate,” said USC coach Andy Enfield. “We weren’t making the extra pass quick enough. In our last three games, we’ve done that.”

“The coaches really stress that when you penetrate, don’t penetrate too deep. Look for the guy that may be on the wing or dump it off to a big,” said USC guard Julian Jacobs, who had three assists. “Early on, we weren’t playing for each other. We were being a little selfish.”

USC has shown this season that it has many players that can drive the ball into the paint. Once they got into the paint however, many times they forced crazy shots or turned the ball over. If the team’s passing can improve after that initial penetration, it will really help the offense going forward.

It also helps that USC is 4-0 this season when McLaughlin has at least seven assists.

Another Thing I Liked: Katin Reinhardt

Reinhardt scored 11 points on 4-12 shooting from the field, including making three of his five three-point attempts. It was a nice bounce-back game for him after scoring 0 points last game against New Mexico at The Pit.

But it wasn’t Reinhardt’s offense that I was impressed with.

Reinhardt was guarding Loyola Marymount star Evan Payne for most of the game, and actually did a pretty good job doing so. Payne was averaging 21.7 points per game coming into tonight, and Reinhardt held him to six points in the first half on 2-6 shooting from the field. Payne scored a lot of his points late in the second half after USC had already put the game away.

This was after holding New Mexico’s Hugh Greenwood scoreless, another guy that has averaged double-digit points per game this season.

“Katin has been our best perimeter defender. It means a lot to him. He has guarded the opponent’s best perimeter player,” said Enfield. “He has embraced being an all-around player.”

While Reinhardt has struggled with shooting, he’s been adjusting to a new role and he seemed confident that he will quickly regain his scoring touch.

“Last spring, coach told me if I don’t play defense I won’t play. I knew that defense was a problem during my freshman tear. It’s been a difficult road being a defensive player and learning that side of things, plus not playing in a year,” said Reinhardt. “It’s been a difficult transition, but I’m getting better and better each game.”

Quick Hits

1. USC is currently on a three-game winning streak. USC has not won five games in a row since the 2009-10 season.

2. Enfield said after the game that Brendyn Taylor will redshirt this season.

3. Nikola Jovanovic scored 12 points tonight. The Trojans are 11-4 in games in which Jovanovic has scored in double figures.

4. Six of USC’s eight opponents this season have shot less than 40 percent from the field.

5. The Trojans closed as a six-point favorite over Loyola Marymount and the point total was set at 131. After covering tonight, USC is now 5-3 against the spread this season and the UNDER is 4-2.

6. USC’s next game will be against Utah State on Sunday at the Galen Center at 2 p.m. Utah State is currently 3-3 on the season.

Follow Galen Central on Facebook and Twitter for more USC basketball news.

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