USC falls to Army

The USC men’s basketball team blew a double-digit second half lead before falling in overtime to Army, 76-71, Saturday night at the Galen Center.

Jordan McLaughlin set a new career-high with 24 points and Nikola Jovanovic recorded his third double-double of the season, but it wasn’t enough to overcome poor free throw shooting and an Army squad that got red hot in overtime.

For the Black Knights, leading scorer Kyle Wilson started 3-for-13, but finished strong making seven of his final 11 shots to finish with a game-high 30 points — 16 coming in the final 4:06 of regulation and overtime. Army had three other players finish in double figures as it earned its first win over a Pac-12 opponent in 50 years.

-- BREAKING IT DOWN --

Key moment(s): Frigid First Half. USC had a pair of droughts in the first half that saw them go at least four minutes without making a basket from the field. Holding a 17-14 lead, the Trojans went ice cold. They went 4:40 without scoring a point while Army scored 11 straight. After a Malik Martin dunk, USC went another 4:05 without a field goal. In total, the Trojans managed just four points in a nearly nine-minute period.

Streaking Out the Gates. USC started the game 8-2 with four different players scoring. Then in the second half, the Trojans opened up with an 14-0 scoring run in the first five minutes to flip a 36-33 halftime deficit into a double-digit lead. The biggest difference was USC forcing the issue and driving into the paint. Katin Reinhardt eschewed deep shots and took it to the bucket where he had three buckets and two assists during the run.

Flailing In Crunch Time. With a chance to close the game out in the final five minutes of regulation, USC played like a young team that isn’t accustomed to winning. The Trojans choked, making poor decisions and being unable to step up and knock down a shot to bury the Black Knights. USC had one field goal in the last five minutes and that came on a fastbreak after getting a steal.

“We were up five [with 1:22 remaining] and Katin Reinhardt missed a free throw,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “With 35 seconds left, we had a two-point lead and Strahinja got the offensive rebound. He had two options. He could either try to go back up with it over two people like he did or he could have just kicked it out. We would have held the ball and they would have fouled us.

“To me, that’s execution. It’s knowing the time and score,” Enfield said. “It’s a learning experience for our players. I think they understand they have to execute better down the stretch and they have to step up and have confidence at the foul line and make free throws.

Seasoned veteran Kyle Wilson, on the other hand, had six points in the final 4:06 to lead Army back. He punctuated the Black Knights’ 11-2 run to close out the second half with a finger roll off the backboard to tie the game with 24 seconds remaining. He went right by Jordan McLaughlin and no help defense came from the opposite side.

Overtime Fire. It’s hard to beat a team in overtime that drains its first two shots from deep to take an almost immediate six-point lead. The Black Knights did that and only missed one field goal in the overtime period.

“Overtime is five minutes of hard-nosed basketball,” Katin Reinhardt said. “Whoever is going to come out and play hard and whoever is going to get 50-50 balls, whoever’s going to knock shots down is the team that’s going to win.”

Player of the Game: Jordan McLaughlin. Like the rest of his teammates, Jordan McLaughlin struggled in the final three minutes of regulation, throwing a bad lob pass to Julian Jacobs that wasn’t open and missing a jumper and a floater, but in total, McLaughlin put together a solid game.

The freshman point guard set a new career high for the second straight game — including seven points in overtime. He finished 8 for 18 from the floor, but had been above 50 percent shooting in regulation. His percentage dipped when the Trojans got desperate in the final moments of overtime. McLaughlin also added five rebounds, five assists and a steal.

Most Spectacular Play(s): Hammer Jam. The Trojans were struggling in half court sets in the first half, but did well when getting out on the break. One of their fast break baskets came thanks to some quick hands by Darion Clark. The redshirt sophomore forward reached around his man and poked the ball away.

Nikola Jovanovic snagged the ball in traffic and got it to Clark, who immediately pushed it forward to Julian Jacobs with a cross-court bounce pass. Jacobs scooped a pass right back to the trailing Clark. The big man was rewarded for his defense and running the floor. Clark sprung off two feet, turned his body in mid air and threw down the hammer.

Old School Three-Point Play. Jordan McLaughlin had to endure constant pressure from Army’s guards. The Black Knights guarded the made-basket inbounds pass, trying to wear McLaughlin down by making him work to get open and dribble the length of the court with a defender on him.

But on one play late in the second half, McLaughlin went behind his back and beat his man, drove through the defense from half court and sliced across the lane from right to left. He got bumped when he went up to shoot, but absorbed the contact, controlled his body and hit a floater and finished off the old fashioned three-point play to put USC up nine with 5:24 remaining.

Unsung Hero: Katin Reinhardt. Known for his long-distance shooting, Katin Reinhardt did just about everything except what he’s known for. Reinhardt missed all five of his 3-pointers, but filled up the box score everywhere else. He was 7-for-12 shooting on two-point attempts — a season-best 58 percent. He dished out five assists, giving him 11 in the last two games after having just 13 in the first eight games combined. Reinhardt also finished with four rebounds and three steals — tying season highs in both categories.

The redshirt sophomore was much more aggressive taking the ball to the basket rather than settling for jump shots. That enabled him to both score inside and create for teammates.

“The coaches have echoed it a lot, but I feel like for me, I haven’t done a very good job of being aggressive,” Reinhardt said. “Being 6’5”, 6’6”, I can be getting to the basket a lot more and creating plays for my teammates. I’ve been settling for a lot of jumpers lately.”

After watching a lot of tape of himself during the week, Reinhardt said he planned to come out much more aggressive and that paid off in the form of 17 points — two shy of his season high.

"Step It Up:" Nikola Jovanovic. The Serbian sophomore kept the Trojans in the game in the first half when they were struggling to put the ball in the basket. He made three of his five field goals for an eight-point, seven-rebound half. But down the stretch when the Trojans needed him most, he disappeared.

His last bucket in regulation came with exactly six minutes remaining. Jovanovic took an ill-advised corner 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining and when USC got him the ball for the last shot, he missed a jumper fading away from the basket in the middle of the lane. He did make a layup and get fouled in overtime, but he bricked the free throw. Jovanovic finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but it continues to be a work in progress for the Trojans’ biggest offensive threat in the post.

Key stat(s): 77. USC scored 77 or more points for the third straight game. It’s the first time the Trojans have done that since December 2003. The 2003 team also went 2-1 in the three-game stretch.

53.6. The Trojans made just 15 of their 28 shots from the free throw line. Free throws are supposed to be the easy ones, but USC has instead made it seem like the most difficult part of the game its last two outings. Even more condemning is when the Trojans miss from the charity stripe. They shot 7 of 11 in the first half for a not terrible 64 percent. But when the Trojans needed them the most in the second half and overtime, they were a measly 8 for 17. That’s just not going to get it done.

14-12. The Trojans lost the turnover battle for the fourth time this season. USC had 14 turnovers to Army’s 12. When the Trojans turn the ball over more than their opponent, they are 1-3 this season.

13. For USC the magic number is 13 turnovers. When the Trojans turn the ball over 14 or more times, they are 1-3 on the season.

4. Four of those turnovers were committed by Nikola Jovanovic. He had only turned the ball over twice in the last four games combined. USC is now 0-3 when he has more than two turnovers.

3. Jordan McLaughlin also had three turnovers tonight. USC is now 1-4 when he has three or more turnovers and a perfect 5-0 when he has less than three.

4-5; 2-2; 10-12. Those impressive figures are Army’s shooting line in overtime. One missed field goal; perfect from three-point range; and 83 percent from the free throw line. That’s a recipe for an overtime victory.

Quote(s) of the Night:

“You have to finish games out. You have to execute down the stretch….We can’t shoot it for them and I’m not going to make excuses for them.” — USC head coach Andy Enfield on his team needing to make clutch shots.

Where They Stand: The Trojans are now 6-4 on the season and have a cross-country visit to face an ACC squad next. They head on the road to play at Boston College — a trip that won’t be welcomed by USC fans after what happened to the football team in September.

With a tough road game waiting, USC could potentially need a win over Vermont at the end of the month just to stay above .500 in the non-conference schedule.

Spotted: USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and Steve Lopes, the CFO and COO of the athletic department were spotted watching the game from the sidelines.

Also spotted were a couple of new looks for specific Trojans. Jordan McLaughlin rocked a yellow headband for the first time this season. He also chose not to wear the tights under his shorts that he has sported in every other home game this season. Instead, he wore a padded knee sleeve. Freshman guard Malik Marquetti also had a small trim of his hair.

Post-Game Interviews: Andy Enfield and Katin Reinhardt.





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