Three takeaways: Trojans rally to beat Omaha

Takeaways from USC basketball's 82-72 win over Omaha at the Galen Center to improve to 2-0 this season.

For the second game in a row, the USC basketball team started sluggish. The Trojans made three of their first five shots, but had two turnovers and allowed Omaha to make six of its first eight field goal attempts, including a trio of three-pointers from @Marcus Tyus.

Tyus also added an old school three-point play during an 8-0 run that put the Mavericks up 16-7 early. It looked like USC was in trouble, but as they did in the season opener, the Trojans found a way to battle back and overcome their early struggles. Five USC players scored in double digits to lead the team to an 82-72 win at the Galen Center Sunday evening.

The two teams traded runs in the first half. A De'Anthony Melton 3-pointer ended a 10-2 USC run to even the score, 21-21, but Omaha immediately answered with an 11-2 run keyed by five more points from Tyus. It wasn't long before seven straight points from Shaqquan Aaron, who led the Trojans with 16 points, tied the score, 33-33.

The Mavericks took a four-point lead into halftime and held their lead at four to six points for much of the first 10 minutes of the second half, but USC tied the game for the fifth time with 9:17 remaining. The Trojans inched ahead soon after and a 9-0 run gave them their first double-digit lead of the game with 3:02 to go. 

Tyus tried to keep Omaha close with nine more points in a 84-second span, to give him a career-high 33 points, but the Trojans made nine-of-10 free throws in the final 1:44 to seal up a victory.

Chimezie Metu notched his second career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- tying his career high. He also tied his career high for blocks with five. Melton scored 13 points. Jordan McLaughlin had 12 and Elijah Stewart 11.

Tre'Shawn Thurman complemented Tyus' hot shooting with a 20-point, 14-rebound double-double, but he required 22 field goal attempts. USC held the Mavericks to 36.8 percent shooting and won the rebounding margin, 51-42.

Here's three takeaways from USC's come-from-behind victory over Omaha on Sunday evening:

Monstrous Metu

As a freshman last season, Chimezie Metu struggled to stay on the court at times. He was routinely getting in foul trouble and played more than 25 minutes only three times. He never played more than 28. He's already eclipsed those numbers twice in two games.

"He's learning as a player. Last year, he was an inexperienced freshman who had a lot of playing time, but he did foul a lot," USC head coach Andy Enfield said. "He averaged 4 1/2 fouls in the Pac-12. He played about 17 to 18 minutes a night. [This year,] he’s played 37 and 31 minutes."

But Metu isn't just getting minutes. He's becoming a difference maker in the paint. To go along with his double-double, Metu tied his career high by swatting away five Omaha shot attempts while picking up only two fouls.

"He’s done a great job of defending, blocking shots when he has to and then he had 11 rebounds tonight. His development is coming and we’re very, very excited for him.”

Metu credits being able to defend better while fouling less to film study. But not on the opposition...of himself. Instead he spent the offseason studying the officials.

"Just knowing what they're calling and what they're going to call. Last year, I came into it kind of blind. As a freshman, it seems like they're picking on you, but this year, I just watched a lot of film and saw what they were calling fouls and what wasn't a foul. I just adjusted."

Metu also adjusted his offensive game. He spent the summer refining his jump shot to make him a more complete player.

"It's really helped me a lot because now I can pump fake and drive to the rim and get fouled. I'm shooting a lot more free throws these first two games than I did all of last year. It's going to help open up my game if I'm able to knock it down."

Switching Lineups

For the second straight game, the opposition started the game red hot while facing USC's man-to-man defense, forcing the Trojans to make a change quickly. Against Montana, the Trojans went to their 2-3 zone and relied on it for most of the rest of the game. Facing a four-guard Omaha lineup, USC switched back and forth between zone and man-to-man.

"What we did when they were big, we tried to go zone," Andy Enfield said. "When they were small with their shooter [Mitch Hahn] in, we tried to go man and switch everything one through four, so he couldn't get loose because he took 11 threes yesterday and made five."

Because of the smaller Mavericks lineup, Enfield narrowed his rotation to just Chimezie Metu and Nick Rakocevic at the forward position. After playing eight minutes in the first half, Minnesota graduate transfer Charles Buggs didn't play in the second half.

"This game was a little difficult for Charles just because of the matchups. We really went with one big and four guards most of the second half," Enfield said. "I thought [Buggs] gave us great energy Friday night, came in the first half tonight and gave us some good energy. As he gets more acclimated to our system and is able to do more things offensively and defensively and then also depending on the matchups, it will really affect his playing time in the second half."

De'Anthony Does it All

Losing No. 12 Julian Jacobs to the NBA Draft was more than losing a veteran point guard. It was also losing his veteran presence, but more importantly his do-it-all ability. Jacobs was a quintessential stat sheet stuffer. His explosive athletic ability made him dangerous on offense and defense. He could score at the rim, rebound and defend at a high level.

Now it's just No. 22 doing that.

Freshman guard De'Anthony Melton can do it all on the court as he proved Sunday. He scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-2 on three-pointers and a perfect 4-for-4 at the free throw line. He fell just shy of his first double-double, grabbing nine rebounds. He also dished out four assists and had three steals.

It is on the defensive end where he has the potential to shine every night.

"Some people would say that I'm really known for my defense, but I just really want to try to get as many deflections as I can, limit their possessions and increase ours. If that means I have to steal the ball or if it's just a regular rebound, that really helps our team."

Up Next

The Trojans face their first road game and their first marquee opponent as they travel to College Station, Texas to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies made it to the Sweet 16 last season after finishing tied with the best regular season record in the SEC. Texas A&M is really strong at home in Reed Arena where it finished 17-1 last season and is 1-0 this year.

Highlights

Notes

- All eight USC players the participated scored at least four points and had at least three rebounds.

- USC led the fast break scoring 17-7 over Omaha.

- The Trojans are now 2-0 when outshooting their opponent after shooting 37.8 percent.

- USC is 2-0 at the Galen Center after starting 15-0 last year to set the record for the most home wins to start a season in USC history.

- Bennie Boatwright missed his second conseuctive game with a minor nerve issue in his right shoulder.

- USC has shot 64 free throws in the first two games.

- Jonah Matthews and Charles Buggs scored their first points as USC Trojans. Nick Rakocevic collected his first career field goal

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