Trojans take on red-hot New Mexico on the road
After dropping three straight games, the USC menâ€™s basketball team will have a chance to get back on track and pick up a big road win against No. 18 New Mexico on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Trojans are coming off a disappointing 63-51 defeat against Nebraska that dropped their record to 3-4 on the season. USC allowed the Cornhuskers to knock down 64 percent of their 3-point attempts, a major reason why Nebraska was able to pull off the victory. Looking forward to New Mexico, USC coach Kevin Oâ€™Neill realizes the importance of preventing another such perimeter attack.
â€śObviously, we canâ€™t give up 11 out of 17 3-pointers,â€ť Oâ€™Neill said. â€śWeâ€™re in a rough stretch, but if you add up the win-loss record of our opponents, weâ€™re playing tough teams. On the road itâ€™s always tough. Weâ€™ve got to find our way offensively and defensively. Until then, itâ€™s going to be difficult.â€ť
The Lobos are led by their backcourt, as junior guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell are averaging a combined 27.2 points and eight assists per game. The Trojans are hoping to slow them down offensively.
â€śWe have to make sure we donâ€™t give them catches in open space,â€ť Oâ€™Neill said. â€śAnd when they do make catches, we have to get in their face. We canâ€™t give up easy baskets and 3-pointers.â€ť
USCâ€™s backcourt, meanwhile, continues to provide spotty shooting performances. Starting guards senior Jio Fontan and junior J.T. Terrell finished a combined 9-of-24 from the floor against Nebraska, with Terrell still managing to lead the team with 14 points.
â€śI canâ€™t really speak for J.T., but I think that itâ€™s definitely been a little bit of a challenge for him,â€ť sophomore guard Byron Wesley said before the start of USCâ€™s road trip. â€śAt junior college he was the main player shooting almost every time, so just coming here, trying to become more of a system player is definitely going to make his game way better. Iâ€™m excited for what we have.â€ť
New Mexico enters Wednesdayâ€™s matchup with an undefeated 8-0 record. The Lobos started the season off with an 86-81 victory over Davidson and later took down the Connecticut Huskies to win the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Beating the undefeated Lobos would be tough enough on a neutral court, but at University Arena in New Mexico itâ€™s an even larger challenge. When asked if the Trojans were ready for the road test, Oâ€™Neill was blunt.
â€śNo. But it doesnâ€™t matter if weâ€™re ready, weâ€™re going to have to be there,â€ť Oâ€™Neill said. â€śItâ€™s obviously a good environment, but no different than any place like Arizona or Washington that weâ€™ll have to play at later.â€ť
In a hostile environment, the Trojans will look to avoid a slow start like the one in a recent home game against No. 17 San Diego State. USC lost that matchup 66-60.
â€śWe know we canâ€™t come out flat when we go out there because itâ€™ll make that challenge even tougher,â€ť senior forward Eric Wise said. â€śSo we just want to come out from the beginning.â€ť
Despite the mounting losses, Oâ€™Neillâ€™s group isnâ€™t conceding anything yet, especially with a chance to impress onlookers with upcoming matchups against ranked teams.
â€śWe [have] lots of challenges ahead of us,â€ť Oâ€™Neill said. â€śWe still have two top-25 teams we have to play this week. Weâ€™re going to have to tie things together on both ends of the court. We donâ€™t like results weâ€™ve had in the past few games, and weâ€™re determined to turn it around.â€ť