February 17, 2016 by Max Meyer
By Max Meyer
USC faced its first halftime deficit at Galen Center this season on Wednesday night against Colorado, and that hole ballooned to 15 with 8:59 left in the contest. But a defensive switch and an incredible effort from its two star point guards lifted the Trojans to incredible 79-72 comeback victory.
The 37-29 halftime deficit was in large part due to poor offensive play. The Trojans shot only 37 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, and had seven turnovers versus only three assists. Colorado started converting on second-chance opportunities early in the second half, bullying USC on the offensive glass.
“To come back and win a game like this, it’s a big confidence booster,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We’ve shown that we can come back, but it’s nice to finish it and win the game. Every team is going to go on runs, you just hope you go on the last one.”
Julian Jacobs added, “We fear losing. At half, the coaches made a good point that any day could be your last game. We didn’t want to lose. We didn’t want to feel that.”
Let’s look at the biggest reason behind one of the most important wins that USC has had this season.
One Thing I Really Liked: Enfield’s Adjustment To Switch To A 2-3 Zone
With the absence of Darion Clark, USC has really struggled lately on rebounds. Colorado outrebounded the Trojans 23-11 in the first half, including a 6-1 edge on the offensive glass. The Buffaloes only had two second-half points over that span though, but started taking advantage of their additional opportunities in the second half.
“Colorado is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. I thought we had to do some things to counteract that,” Enfield said. “Our man to man wasn’t working because they were pounding the ball inside. Even if they missed a shot, our bigs would help, and then their bigs would slide in and get the offensive rebound. So we just had to do something differently.”
After trailing 60-45 with 8:59 left, USC went on a 25-5 run over the next seven minutes to rejuvenate a silent Galen Center. In a game which the Trojans struggled shooting the ball, the team needed a boost from the defensive end to start and complete the comeback.
“We just had to get stops on defense, coach put an emphasis on that,” Jordan McLaughlin said. “We know we were going to have to win the game on defense, and that’s what we did. It was a great call by coach going to the zone. We just want to get stops on defense so we can run and get easy buckets in transition.”
Along with limiting Colorado’s rebounding, USC played more aggressive perimeter defense within the 2-3 zone. That gave the Trojans a lot more transition opportunities, and ultimately much easier shots.
“[Jordan] was outstanding,” Enfield said. “He had three steals, and Julian had five steals, and they controlled the game down the stretch with their penetration and shot making and their defense.”
You have to give props to Andy Enfield. He’s shown this year that he is capable of making smart adjustments and can coach USC back into games. He had to roll the dice since nothing else was working, and it ultimately paid off.
“We didn’t know if our zone would be effective, but it certainly was,” Enfield said. “Give our players credit, they really played the zone great. And they rebounded out of it.”
1. USC’s two point guards led the way in this one. Jordan McLaughlin scored a career-high 25 points, and scored 11 points down the stretch to solidify USC’s comeback bid.
After making four free throws and a layup, McLaughlin hit a three with 2:55 left to give USC a 68-65 lead, a lead the Trojans would not vanquish the rest of the way. The cherry on top of McLaughlin’s spurt was a jumper to extend USC’s lead to five.
“I was just going with the flow of the game,” McLaughlin said. “Coach called some plays and I got to the foul line.
Julian Jacobs added 17 points, including a couple ferocious dunks on fast breaks that electrified the home crowd. Jacobs had all five of his steals in the second half, and bolstered his status as one of the most exciting players in the Pac-12, if not the entire country.
2. Speaking of steals, USC had a season-high 13 swipes Wednesday night. It was the team’s highest amount of steals in a game since the Trojans also had 13 February 4, 2009 against UCLA.
3. USC is now 15-0 at Galen Center this season, one of three Pac-12 teams with an undefeated record at home. Cal (16-0) and Oregon (15-0) are the other two.
4. The Trojans’ 37-29 deficit was the first time it trailed at the half at home all season.
5. USC’s next game is against Utah at 3 PM Sunday at the Galen Center.