The USC men's and women's basketball teams continued their strong play at home Sunday afternoon with both teams taking their half of a doubleheader to keep the Trojan squads an unblemised 11-0 at home this season.
The only time winning has been this popular at Galen Center is when the Kid's Choice Awards are hosted by the arena each year.
The male Trojans (8-2) took a 68-56 victory over a solid Yale squad that was the preseason favorite to win the Ivy League behind 17 points from freshman Bennie Boatwright and 14 points each by Jordan McLaughlin and Katin Reinhardt. The Women of Troy followed with their ninth straight win to open the season, beating Long Beach State, 69-43.
Jordan Adams led the way for the women, scoring 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting. She fell just one rebound shy of a double-double and added four assists, three blocks and one steal to only one turnover. Temi Fagbenle, being a graduate transfer from Harvard, had to enjoy the men's victory over Yale and then helped lead her team to a win with 13 points and a USC career-high 16 rebounds.
Here's three takeaways from USC's pair of victories at the Galen Center on Sunday:
Missing Some Juju
The Trojans were without Julian "Juju" Jacobs against Yale (5-5). The Trojans' most consistent playmaker this season sat with tendenitis in his Achilles tendon. After wearing a boot throughout the week, Jacobs was unavailble Sunday and is being listed as day-to-day, putting the onus on Jordan McLaughlin to return to his natural point guard position where he hasn't played much this seaon.
"We are deeper, but with our injury to Julian I thought it really affected our depth," USC head coach Andy Enfield said. "Julian is first in the Pac-12 in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio. He's our second-leading rebounder at over six per game.
"When you take that athleticism and the ability to break the defense down out of your lineup...now Jordan McLaughlin is a pretty good player as well. Those two together makes us a pretty hard to guard. I thought tonight other players had to step up and do certain things."
McLaughlin became the team's facilitator and pushed the tempo, particularly in the second half when Yale struggled to keep up with the Trojans' pace. Bulldogs head coach James Jones said his players got tired and couldn't keep up the same energy they began the second half with when Yale trimmed the lead down to five points by making six of their first seven shots out of the break. The Trojans relentlessly kept coming at the Bulldogs.
"It's something we've preached all year is just trying to win by committee," USC forward Darion Clark said. "As a team, we win games, we lose games. When one guy goes down, we all have to step up and pick it up. It's something we focused on all preseason and it definitely helped us out tonight."
Both USC teams provided quality defensive efforts on Sunday. The men held Yale to 56 points -- the Bulldogs' lowest scoring output this season while the Women of Troy continued their perfect record by holding Long Beach State to just 43 points, including just 12 points in the second half and closing the game out with the 49ers (7-3) scoring four fourth-quarter points.
Both teams did a great job of forcing turnovers and capitalizing on the oppositions' mistakes. The Trojans forced Yale into 16 turnovers and outscored the Bulldogs 25-8 on points off turnovers. The Women of Troy's defense was even more stifling, creating 23 turnovers that led to 22 points.
For the season, the women's team is allowing 47.7 points per game with only one opponent scoring more than 56 points. The Women of Troy have hounded opponents on the wings and forced teams to get out of their comfort zone, rushing possessions to try to create shots. That has contributed to opponents shooting 34.6 percent from the field against the Women of Troy.
Finding a Role
Coming into this season, there were going to be some changes in minutes. Even though the Trojans didn't lose any significant players, they added two big-time freshman post players in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu. Boatwright, who has been a starter all season, showed once again what he is capable of doing, scoring 14 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. He is currently second on the team scoring 12.6 points per game. Metu has come off the bench to be a force at the rim on both ends of the court. He has averaged 2.3 blocks per game and has thrown down some monster jams.
With the freshman duo averaging over 30 combined minutes per game, that meant that there were going to be less minutes and new roles were going to have to be defined. Last season, Malik Martin started the season opener as a true freshman. He and Darion Clark combined for 31 starts while the team's elder statesman Strahinja Gavrilovic was coming off the bench to provide energy while averaging 13.7 minutes per game. That hasn't been the case this year. None of the three aforementioned returning post players have sniffed the starting lineup. As a trio, they are averaging less than Boatwright. Gavrilovic has only appeared in seven games, managing three minutes per game.
But Clark and Martin seem to have snuggled into a specific role coming off the bench. Despite being an undersized 6-foot-7 big, Clark has turned himself into a rebounding machine. He is averaging a team-best 16.1 rebounds per 40 minutes.
"I've just stayed ready," Clark said in the post-game news conference. "I do what the team needs me to do. There are lots of pieces on this team. I have to find a way to help."
Clark is doing half of his board work on the offensive end, grabbing a team-high 22 offensive rebounds. On Sunday, he grabbed nine rebounds in 14 minutes with five of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. He also added two blocks, including one to end the first half.
"Darion is an energy player." head coach Andy Enfield said. "He's extremely strong. He rebounds out of his area. He's one of the better rebounders I've seen. He did a terrific job giving us energy tonight. His five offensive rebounds were big. He's our best rebounder from a physicality standpoint."
After being held out of a game early in the season, Martin has started to follow Clark's lead, bringing energy and enthusiasm coming off the bench. Knowing that his minutes are going to be limited, Martin has been playing super-aggresive when he checks in. He's trying to swat every shot, going after every rebound and playing with the reckless abandon that makes deep benches so dangerous.
"We don't set a rotation or minutes played. They have to go produce. The flow of the game determines, but I do know I can count on Darion Clark to rebound. I know Malik Martin can give us energy off the bench," Enfield said. "Knowing you can count on certain guys and things that they do is really big for a team and a coaching staff."
The men's team will face off against Cal Poly (5-3) -- a team that has given USC trouble in recent seasons -- on Thursday at 7 p.m. PST. The Trojans will look to remain perfect at home while the women's team will look to keep its overall record unblemished. The female Trojans will be back in action over the weekend, hosting the Women of Troy Classic beginning Friday night with a 6 p.m. PST matchup with Florida A&M. The winner of that game will take on the winner of a matchup between Albany and UC Davis.