The USC men’s basketball team will look to continue its success at the Galen Center and earn its third straight win against Cal State Fullerton tonight at 8 p.m.
The Trojans (2-1) have found success at home under first-year coach Andy Enfield, having won their first two contests at the Galen Center. After a 95-79 win in their home opener against Cal State Northridge, USC had a harder time dispatching Northern Arizona (1-2), having to recover from 12-point deficits in both the first and second halves to beat the Lumberjacks 67-63. Junior guard Byron Wesley was the only USC player in double digits, setting a career-high with 31 points and leading the team with 9 rebounds.
Despite the team’s uneven performance, players understand that in the early part of the season, the main objective is simply to get better each game.
“I don’t expect us to peak early,” senior guard J.T. Terrell said. “If we start to peak around conference, then I would say we’re pretty much where we need to be.”
Freshman forward Nikola Jovanovic finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds against NAU, while senior center Omar Oraby, who hit the go-ahead layup with 54 seconds left, added 8 points and 7 rebounds. NAU guards Aaseem Dixon and Quinton Upshur both set career highs with 20 and 18 points, respectively,
Through three games this season, Wesley has averaged a team-leading 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while also averaging 3.7 assists per game, second on the team. Oraby averages 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on the season, while Terrell is averaging 10 points per game after scoring 2 points on 0-6 shooting in 17 minutes against the Lumberjacks.
“We’re getting better still, trying to make strides every day in practice,” Wesley said. “I think it comes down to toughness. Rebounding and defense is something that you will yourself to do, so if guys just start playing hard consistently and continue to get tougher and get better every day, we should be fine.”
Cal State Fullerton (2-1) is coming off an 86-73 win over Santa Clara. The Titans, boosted by guard Alex Harris’ 19 points, led by as many as 24 in the second half, but a late rally from the Broncos cut the deficit to 13.
Harris leads four double-digit scorers for the Titans with 17.7 points per game. Guard Michael Williams averages 15.3 points per game, while forward Marquis Horne averages 13.3 points and guard Josh Gentry is averaging 10 points per game.
“They’re an excellent basketball team with a great coach,” Enfield said about the Titans. “They have unbelievable guards. They shoot the ball, they penetrate, and whenever you have three guys that can play like that, any team’s difficult to defend. We have to do a good job of containing the guards and then making plays at the other end.”
The last contest between the Trojans and the Titans was an 81-54 win for USC on Nov. 24, 2010 at the Galen Center. Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Alex Stephenson (11 points, 12 rebounds) both picked up double-doubles, Maurice Jones led the team with 20 points (17 in the second half), and Bryce Jones added 15 points. USC is 3-0 all-time against Cal State Fullerton.
The Trojans will conclude their homestand on Thursday at 7 p.m. against West Alabama (1-1). They will then travel to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, taking on Villanova on Nov. 28 at 10 a.m.
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