January 14, 2015 by Max Meyer
By Max Meyer
USC fans measure their team’s success based on rivalry games. It may be unfair, but getting beat consistently by a crosstown rival is bound to decrease morale and excitement around a program. USC dropped it’s second consecutive home game, getting blown out 83-66 at the hands of UCLA.
USC has played UCLA three times in the Andy Enfield era. In those three games, the Trojans have lost by an average of 20.3 points. Now USC falls to 9-8 on the season after losing four of its first five Pac-12 games.
One Thing I Liked: Nikola Jovanovic Jovanovic has scored double-digit points in 12 consecutive games. After a slow start to the season, he seems to be embracing his new role on the team. He looks a lot more comfortable in the post. He’s given the Trojans their one true consistent offensive weapon down low.
He played well again tonight on offense. He scored 20 points on 13 shots, and held his own on that side of the floor against UCLA big men Kevon Looney and Tony Parker. But, 14 of his 20 points came in the first half. And since he wasn’t consistently scoring in the final 20 minutes, UCLA pulled away.
“The difference in the game was the second half,” said Jovanovic. “We need to put our games together. We have a lot of time now to do that.”
Parker took advantage of his physicality against Jovanovic on offense, muscling inside for quite a few easy baskets. But Jovanovic was one of the few reasons that UCLA didn’t win by 30.
One Thing I Didn’t Like: The Defense This team will not win many games if they continue to play defense the way they have. USC did not force UCLA to pick up the ball once. Instead UCLA dribbled freely and executed their offense without difficulty.
USC was outrebounded 41-20 in the game, and the 20 rebounds were a season-low. Why? Because UCLA shot 56.5 percent in the game, and when they did miss a shot, there was a good chance they came up with an offensive rebound. UCLA’s offensive rebounding percentage that game was 40.7, which is inexcusable.
“We helped them out by giving them too many lanes to the basket,” said Enfield.
UCLA guard Norman Powell had his way with USC’s defense in the second half. He drove to the paint with ease, and made quite a few layups and uncontested shots. USC also had trouble with Kevon Looney, or really any stretch four they’ve dealt with this season. The truth is, there is no one on that team that can guard a big man with a perimeter game.
Man defense and zone defense have not worked for this team thus far. It’s been so easy for teams to score on USC, that the team may as well be nicknamed Dunked On City during Enfield’s tenure.
Quick Hits 1. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs were outscored by Bryce Alford and Norman Powell 43 to 12. USC’s duo shot 5 of 19 from the field. The Trojans need both of those guys to play much better if the team wants to have any chance of winning.
2. USC’s bench was also outscored 24 to 11. With USC’s starting five not playing that well as a unit, other guys needed to step up tonight. USC’s bench has been inconsistent this season though, and tonight wasn’t one of their good nights.
“We need some production off our bench. Our guards didn’t shoot a high-enough percentage to win,” said Enfield.
3. UCLA’s Norman Powell finishes his collegiate career with a 4-0 record at the Galen Center. He’s the first Bruin since Toby Bailey from 1995 to 1998 to win all four of his games at USC.
4. At least USC’s shooting at the line is improving. The Trojans made 70.6 percent of their free throws tonight. That’s the third straight game that USC has shot better than 70 percent from the charity stripe, after only doing so once in the first 14 games.
5. USC’s next game is at Oregon next Thursday at 8 p.m. PST.