USC could have duplicated the performance of UCLA down the block at the Sports Arena. Instead the Trojans outscored Cal State Northridge 16-5 in the final 4:48 to escape with a 66-59 win in their season opener in front of 5,172 at Galen Center on Friday night.
As USC head coach Kevin O'Neill said, "It beats the alternative.
"We got to get better," he added. "We're nowhere where we need to be with the schedule we're playing, but we're going to get better and we're going to improve. We'll take some knocks along the way."
The team's deficiencies in ball handling manifested with 20 turnovers, as CSUN frequently double and triple-teamed sophomore guard Maurice Jones. Long periods of offensive ineptitude resulted in a mere 29-21 halftime lead despite allowing just 13.8 percent (4-of-29) shooting from the field.
Still, USC (1-0) was able to capitalize on strong debuts by forwards Aaron Fuller, a transfer from Iowa, and DeWayne Dedmon, each scoring 16 points to offset a dismal 0-of-15 performance from the three-point line.
Dedmon, the super-athletic redshirt sophomore from Lancaster, Calif., more than lived up to his billing as a future first-round draft pick. After scoring just two points in his entire high school career, Dedmon exceeded that total in the first four minutes and 19 seconds of his USC career.
Playing without a cast or brace of any kind on his right hand, which he broke in practice on Oct. 11, Dedmon had several emphatic dunks but also demonstrated good touch for such a raw player, making seven of eight shots from the field.
But despite finishing with eight rebounds, two off the offensive glass, it was clear he still has to learn the nuances of boxing out and attacking the ball with both hands.
O'Neill was pleased with the start.
"I thought Dewayne played great," O'Neill said. "I think he gets overly excited and hyped to be honest."
That enthusiasm showed as Dedmon delivered salutes on Veterans Day after a pair of blocked shots.
But the biggest cheers of the night came as the video board showed the final moments of the Bruins' 69-58 loss to Loyola Marymount.
Stephan Hicks had a game-high 19 points for the Matadors (0-1), with Allen Guei and Vinnie McGhee adding 14 apiece.