Eight days after beginning official practices, the USC men’s basketball team competed in the annual Cardinal & Gold scrimmage on Saturday.
Following a two-hour practice, the Trojans split into two teams, with the Cardinal team coached by assistant coach Dieter Horton and the Gold team led by assistant coach Tony Miller. The teams played four four-minute quarters, with the Cardinal team winning 39-29.
“Any win is a good win, even if it is just between us,” junior forward Nikola Vucevic said. “I think we played pretty well. We executed our plays, but we need to do a better job on defense.”
Vucevic led the Cardinal team with 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Senior guard Donte Smith had a game-high 20 points for the Gold team.
“Last year, this game was a debacle. I remember leaving here thinking, ‘I am going straight to a bar because this is not going to be any fun this year,’” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “These guys did a much better job executing. We have guys that know the system from last year, which makes it easier. We also have guys with great natural instincts.”
The Trojans are counting on their four freshmen to contribute immediately. Freshman guard Maurice Jones scored the first basket of the scrimmage, and fellow freshman guard Bryce Jones had a breakaway dunk on the next possession to give the Cardinal team a quick 4-0 lead. Maurice Jones finished with six points and three assists, and Bryce Jones had five points and one assist. Freshman forward Curtis Washington had two points for the Gold team in only two minutes. Freshman forward Garrett Jackson was sidelined with a broken nose.
The scrimmage also gave fans an opportunity to see two new transfers. Junior forward Aaron Fuller, who cannot play until the 2011-2012 season after transferring from Iowa, had six points. Junior guard Jio Fontan, who will be eligible to play Dec. 18 against Kansas after transferring from Fordham, did not play in the scrimmage because of bruised ribs, although he participated in the practice beforehand.
The scrimmage helped show O’Neill what his team needs to work on before it opens the regular season against UC Irvine on Nov. 13.
“We need to really tighten it up defensively. We know what we are doing, but we are about a step off everything,” O’Neill said. “We also need to become a much, much better executing team off set plays.”
The Trojans will play next in an exhibition game against Point Loma Nazarene at the Galen Center on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.