Shotgun Spratling/uscfootball.com

USC basketball starts slow, loses 87-77 to No. 23 Xavier

Takeaways from USC basketball's loss to No. 23 Xavier in the AdvoCare Invitational, including continued struggles on the defensive glass.

USC lost its first game of the season Friday afternoon as the Trojans were manhandled by No. 23 Xavier for 20 minutes before battling back to make the final score of 87-77 look respectable. The Trojans were down as much as 32 points in the second round of the AdvoCare Invitational tournament at HP Field House in Orlando, Fla.

Julian Jacobs scored 15 points to lead USC, adding six assists, five rebounds and four steals. Nikola Jovanovic also had 15 points while Katin Reinhardt scored 13 off the bench. 

USC struggled with foul trouble throughout the game and had to basically play half the game without three starters. Both Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart ended up fouling out and combined for just 31 minutes. Leading scorer Jordan McLaughlin did not return in the second half after suffering an injury late in the first half. It is believed he suffered a broken nose. Head coach Andy Enfield told the Associated Press after the game that his status for the Trojans' next game on Saturday was unknown.

Trevon Bluiett produced a game-high 16 points to lead four Musketeers in double figures. James Farr was one of those four. He came off the bench to score 12 points and fell a rebound shy of a double-double.

Here's three takeaways from the Trojans' first loss of the season:

Snail Start

Every shot that Wichita State seemed to miss yesterday in the first half, Xavier made on Friday. The Musketeers were knocking down everything, including a banked in 3-pointer. When USC started out slow offensively for the second time in two days, it was all but over.

Xavier dominated every facet of the game in the first half. As Trojan after Trojan got into foul trouble with Bennie Boatwright, Elijah Stewart and Chimezie Metu all picking up three fouls, the Musketeers shot 58 percent to USC's 35 percent. And even when they did miss, it seemed like they got at least half of the offensive rebounds. In fact, at one point, Xavier was 10-for-15 from the field with three offensive rebounds to USC's two defensive boards. That allowed the Musketeers to go on a 17-0 run early that the Trojans never recovered from.

Get on the Glass

It has become a common refrain to tweet or type or talk about the Trojans' struggles on the defensive glass this season. Defensive rebounding has proved to be USC's one true weakness. Xavier dominated the boards, 43-30, with 14 offensive rebounds...which was actually less than the Trojans' season average. Through six games, opponents have pulled down 96 offensive rebounds -- a whopping 16 per game. A little bit of it can be attributed to the style that USC wants to play with guards running out and looking for quick open shots in transition, but that doesn't not explain such a high number.

The Trojans have to do a better job of not just putting a body on opposing players, which they don't always do, but also boxing out. Instead of just realying on their athleticism, they have to get their rears into a defender to keep them from going up and tipping the ball, keeping it alive and allowing another teammate to grab it. There are a lot of drills the Trojans can work on, but they've got to get a little tougher if they want it to stick in the games.

Playing Through

In the second half, USC could have easily mailed it in. Star point guard Jordan McLaughlin was out and there was really no way they were going to come back from a 32-point deficit against a top 25 team. Sure, Stanford went on a 17-1 run earlier today to beat Arkansas, but a top 25 Xavier team, which could be a sleeper team to watch out for come March wasn't going to completely shut down. But still the Trojans battled and kept playing. They took care of the ball with only three second half turnovers after nine in the first half.

USC went on a 12-2 run to trim the lead to 13 points and had a good look from Katin Reinhardt from outside that looked like he was fouled on. Instead, for seemingly the only time of the day, there was no foul called and Xavier scored the next six points to push the lead back up to 19. Again, the Trojans could have packed it in, but they kept battling. Julian Jacobs took on all comers, challenging players at the rim or for lobbed passes at halfcourt and USC showed a little backbone.

They needed a couple of breaks that they never got, but the effort and energy was there on the second day of a back-to-back. It was definitely an encouraging sign. With the way USC has shown it can shoot the ball, that type of intensity will lead to a comeback victory at some point this season -- something that hasn't necessarily seemed likely the last few years when the Trojans were to get down early.

Up Next

USC will try to take third place in the AdvoCare Invitational on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. PST. The Trojans will face the loser of tonight's Dayton/Monmouth game. USC beat Monmouth earlier this month, 101-90.


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