At halftime, things weren’t looking very bright for USC. Though the Trojans only trailed Boston College by four on Sunday at the midway break, there was hardly any energy coming from the Trojans, turnovers were hurting the team once again and the defensive effort was porous. Boston College players were driving down the middle of the key, putting up uncontested threes and getting good looks inside. It looked like it was going to be another poor coaching performance after the Trojans had a week to prepare for the game, but the tide turned in the second half.
Andy Enfield must have given a terrific halftime speech because the Trojans came out in the second half and played at the level that they are capable of performing at. Elijah Stewart was on fire from the floor and didn’t miss a shot in the entire game (the last Trojan to do that was Taj Gibson adjacent Boston College in the 2009 NCAA Tournament), Nikola Jovanovic finally stepped it up on the offensive end of the floor and USC made 11 out of 12 free throws in the last 1:54 of the game (credit to Shotgun Spratling for that stat). While it could have been the second bad loss at Boston College within the last three months for a USC sports team, Enfield and his players weren’t going to let that happen.
In a surprising move, Enfield decided to bring Katin Reinhardt off of the bench against Boston College. Though it was a surprising move, it was a good one as well as it sent Reinhardt a message. The UNLV-transfer hasn’t had the best of years shooting the basketball and he didn’t have his best defensive effort of the season last week against Army, even though he’s arguably USC’s best on-ball defender. After a 14 point outing on Sunday where he sunk 6 of 7 free throws and played good defense on Boston College star Olivier Hanlan, Reinhardt might have found his new role on this team. Reinhardt is the vocal leader of the Trojans and there’s really no doubt about that. He’s a veteran presence on a young squad and has seen a lot for just being a sophomore. While you’d like to have your leader out on the court to start the game, that might not be these best option for this team. If Reinhardt comes off the bench from now on, he’ll provide a spark when he steps on the floor and an immediate defensive presence. Elijah Stewart replaced Reinhardt in the starting lineup and look how well he did. The Trojans shot 55.8 percent from the floor Sunday afternoon and might have found their ideal starting five.
Another encouraging sign from Sunday’s game is that USC survived with only three post players while missing Luis Gavrilovic. The Serbian big man is one of USC’s emotional leaders and plays as hard as he can each time he steps on the court. Jovanovic stepped up in Gavrilovic’s absence and controlled the paint, even though Boston College boasted seven-footer Dennis Clifford.
The last positive sign from this game was that USC turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, but only 5 times in the second, one of the main reasons the Trojans were able to pull out the victory.
USC is now 7-4 on the season and face Vermont at home on December 30th before starting Pac-12 play. Andy Enfield’s squad has grown tremendously in non-conference play, but we still don’t know just how much. Pac-12 play should let us all know what this Trojans squad is really made of and it could be really pretty, or really ugly.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Kentucky (LW: 1)
Each and every opponent that has played Kentucky this year goes home just embarrassed. Maybe not some of the small schools that played the Wildcats, but UCLA isn’t a small school. A 24-0 run to start the game? 41 to 7 at halftime? That should never happen to a school like UCLA. John Wooden is turning in his grave.
2. Duke (LW: 2)
3. Arizona (LW: 3)
4. Wisconsin (LW: 4)
5. Kansas (LW: 5)
6. Virginia (LW: 9)
Defense, defense, defense. That’s the only word in Tony Bennett’s vocabulary as somehow the Cavaliers held a very good Harvard team to 27 points. No, not just in the first half, but 27 points in the entire game. That hasn’t been done in a long time and there’s probably some insane stat for Virginia’s defensive performance against the Crimson. There are numerous exceptional starting fives in college basketball this year, but Virginia probably has one of the top three. London Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson are all incredibly gifted athletes and great basketball players.
7. Louisville (LW: 6)
8. Gonzaga (LW: 7)
9. Villanova (LW: 8)
10. Texas (LW: 10)
11. Washington (LW: 16)
The sled is rolling and no tams have been able to figure out how to beat the Huskies thus far into the season. All the hype is about Robert Upshaw, but one guy who has really stepped up this year is Mike Anderson. The second year JUCO transfer is UW’s ‘glue guy’ and brings it on both sides of the floor. He can lock up the opponents best wing player and can contribute on the offensive end. He has the ability to hit the three and showed that he can get to the hoop too as he made a couple nice buckets around the rim on Saturday night against Oklahoma. The Huskies now have two wins against ranked teams and have beat two other solid teams in Eastern Washington and UTEP, a team that only lost to Arizona by five this week. The Huskies are ranked above Utah because of their two wins against ranked teams and the fact that Utah has only beat one ranked opponent, while losing to San Diego State, a team UW beat by 13. Lorenzo Romar has his guys clicking on all cylinders and just outside of the top ten.
12. Utah (LW: 12)
13. Wichita State (LW: 13)
14. Notre Dame (LW: 14)
15. Maryland (LW: 17)
If you don’t know the name Jake Layman yet, get to know it. The junior forward is having a heck of a season for the Terps and is stepping up with the absence of key players. He recorded a double-double on Sunday as he scored 21 points and hauled down 11 rebounds against Oklahoma State. He’s now averaging 15.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season. Maryland’s win against the Cowboys in Stillwater was a big one as Oklahoma State had only lost one game up to that point in the season. The Cowboys boast some top end talent in Le’Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and Michael Cobbins and play every opponent tough at home. Melo Trimble, who has been mentioned here before, is continuing his stupendous season as he scored 14 points on Sunday and didn’t miss any of his seven shots from the charity stripe. How much has this team progressed? Well Evan Smotrycz comes off the bench now, which tells you something.
16. Iowa State (LW: 18)
17. St. Johns (LW: 19)
18. North Carolina (LW: NR)
It’s been a roller coaster season so far for the Tar Heels. But what else did you expect? UNC pulled out a big win against Ohio State on Saturday as for once, Marcus Paige didn’t have to do it all. Brice Johnson stepped up and shot 80 percent from the floor while scoring 18 points. Something that would be good to see from this team is more of Nate Britt. With Britt in the game, it allows Marcus Paige to play off the ball more. Since Paige is more of a shooter and scorer than anything, Britt would be able to facilitate while this would take a little bit off of Paige’s plate. The Tar Heels are deep though and despite tough losses to Iowa and Butler, they still remain a big threat in the ACC.
19. Ohio State (LW: 11)
20. Georgetown (LW: 20)
21. Baylor (LW: NR)
22. Oklahoma (LW: 15)
Some people might argue that the Sooners should fall out of the rankings now that they have three losses, but they don’t really have any bad defeats. Oklahoma showed a lot of resiliency coming back from a 20 point deficit on Saturday night and remain one of the best teams in the Big 12. However, the Sooners need to improve on their depth as all five starters played more than 33 minutes Saturday against Washington. The return of Frank Booker, one of the Sooners’ best shooters, should help the depth a little bit.
23. Arkansas (LW: 23)
24. West Virginia (LW: 25)
25. Colorado State (LW: NR)
The Rams are quietly having a very solid season. They beat in-state rival Colorado and have good wins against Georgia State, UTEP and UC Santa Barbara. The Mountain West is pretty weak this year as San Diego State has struggled in non-conference play and UNLV can’t seem to get at least one quality win, so the Rams might be able to sneak away with the league title. Even though the Rams are undefeated, they still have some challenges. Depth is lacking on this squad and after the five starters, Tiel Daniels leads the team with 20.8 minutes per game. While that’s not horrible, it’s not good either as only six players play 20 minutes or more. A good sign to counter the lack of depth is that four players average 10 points or more per game. J.J. Avila leads this squad and has some good talent around him in the starting lineup.
Added: North Carolina, Baylor, Colorado State