Poor Second Half Costs Trojans in Loss to No.5 Wolf Pack

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December 1, 2018 by Jas Kang

LOS ANGELES — The first bucket of the second half saw the Nevada Wolf Pack take a one-point lead when Caleb Martin delivered the alley and Trey Porter finish the oop.

No.5 ranked Nevada (8-0) never looked back, dominating the second half to go on to a 73-61 win over the USC Trojans (5-3.)

Guard Jordan Caroline led the way for Nevada, finishing with 24 points and 11 boards.

Junior Nick Rakocevic had a double-double for USC, going for 18 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Guard Deryck Thornton was the only other Trojan to hit double figures, finishing with 10.

The Trojans shot just 10-28 in the second half. Rakocevic felt the offensive struggles played a role on the defensive end as well.

“It was tough. That’s where you got to stay composed, when shots aren’t falling,” he said. “We needed to make something happen on the defensive end.”

After a strong first half that saw his team lead 35-34 going into the break, USC coach Andy Enfield wasn’t happy with some of the vets on the team, especially with the first 10 minutes of the second half, when his squad was outscored 27-9

“We expect more out of our upper classmen to understand when the other team has scored four, six, eight, nine points in a row, that at point, we need to take a good shot,” Enfield said. “For us to be the team we think we can be in the next few weeks…that’s a big point of leadership.”

The Trojans shot just 5-21 from the outside. Two of their best shooters, Bennie Boatwright and Jonah Matthews combined to go just 2-14.

USC clearly missed star freshman Kevin Porter Jr. After being out of action for the last 10 days with a thigh contusion. After going through shootaround and getting some treatment, Porter decided to give it a go, although Enfield played him just over four minutes, all in the second half.

“He wanted to play so badly, as a head coach, it’s my responsibility to make sure the players are healthy,” Enfield said. “We played well in the first half, we had the lead, in the second half when we gave him a shot, you can tell her wasn’t a hundred percent.”

Even without having to contain Porter, the Wolf Pack showed why they’re a top-5 team in the Nation over the final 20 minutes.

Coach Eric Mussleman made the right adjustments after Nevada struggled to get open shots against the Trojans 2-3 zone in the first half.

Martin, the Wolf Packs leading scorer on the year, Porter and Caroline, combined to score the first 15 points coming out the break.

Nevada was able to penetrate the middle of the of the Trojans zone that was so effective in the first half, giving the team plenty of opportunities to get to the free throw line and open looks from deep.

The Wolf Pack second half blitz saw them extend the lead to 17, USC never got within 10 after that.

It was a tale of two halves for the Trojans. The team played with a lot of energy in the first, especially on the defensive end, seeming primed to pull off the upset.

Enfield is upset with the loss, but reminded everyone that it is still only December.

“The early-season games matter, we understand that. Hopefully we can become a better team like we did last year,” Enfield said. “We want to be in the running come time for March.”

USC will try to bounce back on Friday when it plays TCU at the Staples Center.

EXTRAS: Current Laker Javale McGee, his mother, USC hoops legend, Pamela and former Trojan/NBA player Nick Young were attendance at the Galen Center.




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