The USC men’s basketball team will look to put the finishing touches on a successful homestand as they take on West Alabama on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.
The Trojans (3-1) won their third straight game on Tuesday, beating Cal State Fullerton 76-62. Junior guard Byron Wesley led the charge with 22 points, senior center Omar Oraby had 15 points and nine rebounds and freshman guard Julian Jacobs added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. USC held the lead throughout, building their advantage to as many as 24, but a 14-0 run by the Titans (2-2) kept the game interesting.
“His 22 tonight was a little quieter than his 31 on Friday,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said of Wesley’s performance. “Byron is becoming a complete player, and I’m impressed because he’s not forcing bad shots and he’s not shooting a bad percentage. He has more assists than turnovers, and he’s our leading rebounder at about nine per game. He’s not taking it 1 on 3 and that’s the sign of a player that’s really improved.”
Wesley is now averaging 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Oraby has 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
“We’re really fortunate to have him,” Jacobs said of Oraby. “A lot of times we get bailed out because we just throw it in to him. He’s a big advantage to have, and as the season progresses he’s getting a lot better and our job is just to feed him and look through to him.”
Senior guard J.T. Terrell, the only other Trojan averaging double-digit scoring (10.0 points per game) didn’t play on Tuesday for what Enfield called “academic reasons.” Terrell came into the season as the squad’s returning leading scorer (11.7 points per game) and was the only player to represent USC alongside Enfield at the Pac-12 Basketball Media Day, but his future with the team seems cloudy. Enfield said Terrell’s status for Thursday’s contest is uncertain.
West Alabama (1-1), a Division II school of the Gulf South conference, is coming off a 67-46 exhibition loss to UTEP (3-1). The Tigers were 18-for-73 (24.7 percent) from the field, but out-rebounded the Miners on the offensive boards 23-4. Jarrell Byrd led the effort with nine rebounds (three offensive). Sandy Underwood, who leads the Tigers with 20.7 points per game, was held to five points. Cordell Pope led West Alabama with 15 points, bringing his average to 10.3 points per game.
This will be the first meeting between the Trojans and the Tigers. A USC win wouldn’t do much to impress critics, but a home loss to a Division II school such as West Alabama would prove costly to the Trojans’ hopes to reach the NCAA Tournament.
“We need every win we can get if we want to go to the postseason,” Enfield said. “We’re going to be in a lot of close games, and our talent is such that we’re a little streaky right now. So we need to win Thursday night, have a great week of practice and see some improvement with our young players who are little streaky.”
The Trojans will head to Nassau Paradise Island in the Bahamas to take on Villanova (3-0) in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. They will then take on either No. 2 Kansas (3-0) or Wake Forest (4-0) in Nassau on Nov. 29.
Follow us on Twitter @dailytrojan