USC Finally Scores a Win in Pac-10 Conference Play
Angelo Johnson sparked a second-half rally, which brought a resurgent Trojan team back to their winning ways. The Trojans got off to an early 16-5 lead, then struggled to keep the lead throughout the first half, looking sluggish at times. Early in the second half, Washington snuck back in and led 43-42. Johnson then scored lay-up, followed seconds later with an assist to Taj Gibson who scored on a fast break slam-dunk. USC scored 14 unanswered points on their way to a convincing victory.
In what was essentially a make-or-break game, the Trojans battled to a hard fought victory. Lose this game and the Trojans would have been 0-4 in conference play. As it is, with just 14 games left in regular season play, the team is looking at a 1-3 record with UCLA coming up at Pauley Pavilion next Saturday.
What Went Well
The Trojans played gritty in the first half, battling hard to keep the Huskies at bay. Defensively, they held the Huskies to 51 points on 33% field goal shooting. When holding off an opponent defensively, the Trojans can have the opportunity to win any game. After giving up 92 and 73 points to Cal and WSU respectively, the defense has found its feet again.
Spreading the Wealth. USC fares well when its offense is balanced and no one or two players carry the load. Four starters were in double figures, led by Dwight Lewis' 17 points, 15 by O.J. Mayo, 10 each by Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson. Angelo Johnson had seven points and Daniel Hackett also had seven off the bench.
As mentioned previously, the Trojans looked sluggish at times and the Huskies mounted a run in the middle of the 1st half and into the beginning of the 2nd. The offense seemed out of sorts, standing around without much movement on the court.
The Huskies out rebounded the Trojans 42-28. Although the Trojan team is not as tall as many of its opponents, they can make up the difference fighting for the ball and boxing out on rebounds. At times in this game, the Huskies would get three or four looks at the basket off of offensive rebounds.
What to Look Forward to
If the Trojans continue to grow, they may become a strong tournament team. The starting lineup consisted of two sophomores in Gibson and Lewis, and three freshmen: Johnson, Jefferson and Mayo. A key factor would be keeping Jefferson on the court, his height and rebounding abilities is critical for the remainder of the season.
The defense of this team is steady, and there have been flashes of offensive output throughout the season. This team appears to fare well when four or five players are in double figures and they are not dependent on Mayo to carry the offense.
Locker Room Chatter
Coach Tim Floyd was satisfied with the team's defense (holding UW to 33% field goal shooting). He said, "I thought defensively, we were as good as we've been in league play…I thought we played hard tonight, we're just having a difficult time getting it off of the defensive board."
Daniel Hackett who was visibly upset after the loss to the Cougars on Thursday was a lot more upbeat in the locker room last night. "We're a young team, and we needed to learn how to win at home (in Pac-10 play), and it was big." He continued, "We felt it was a must win game, our schedule's been pretty tough, opening up with the ‘Bay' schools – Stanford and Cal, then coming here to play Washington State, which is a really good team."
Hackett said it was a great team win, saying, "Davon (Jefferson) came in and had a big performance, Taj (Gibson) was big on (Jon) Brockman, Dwight (Lewis) and O.J. (Mayo) did their jobs on the wing. It was about ‘team' tonight, it was about winning and we did it tonight."
Speaking about his enthusiastic play in the second half, Angelo Johnson commented, "I just tried to get some energy into the second half, I didn't think we had a lot of energy." Johnson started this game in place of Hackett, he addressed being a starter, "I feel good, no biggie, whether I start or come off the bench, I'll play hard."
Commenting on coming off the bench, Hackett added, "I love it, I love it, it's all about team and winning. Coming off the bench is no big deal, I did it last year. It was the best decision for the team, as a result, I was able to bring some energy off the bench." Hackett had seven points off the bench, whereas the team had zero bench points against WSU.
Next up: UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PST, CBS.