The USC men’s basketball team had a well-rounded performance to keep first-year head coach Andy Enfield undefeated at the Galen Center, as the Trojans beat West Alabama 73-57 on Thursday.
Junior guard Byron Wesley led the Trojans (4-1) with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, eight rebounds, and four assists. Freshman forward Nikola Jovanovic had the best performance of his young career, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds. Senior center Omar Oraby controlled the paint with 13 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks, while senior guard Pe’Shon Howard chipped in eight points, six assists and five rebounds.
Despite the well-rounded performance, players felt that there was room for improvement.
“We have to work on protecting our homecourt,” Oraby said. “We can’t let a team come and beat us on our home floor.”
Desmond Raymond led the Tigers (1-3) with 18 points and four rebounds, while Sandy Underwood finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
Before the game, coach Andy Enfield announced that senior guard J.T. Terrell would be ineligible for the first semester due to academic reasons. Terrell could be eligible to return to the team when fall semester finals end on Dec. 18. Terrell was averaging 10 points per game in three games for USC this season, leading the team with 20 in their opener against Utah State.
Oraby towered at least five inches over each West Alabama player, a height advantage that the Trojans exploited, using him to either get an easy shot in the paint or draw defenders to get an open shot outside. His presence helped USC get on an 11-2 run to start the game.
The Trojans would go up by as many as 13, but UWA responded with a 12-3 run to cut the deficit to 22-18. USC opened the game up from there, building up a 45-25 lead at halftime behind nine points each from Wesley, Jovanovic and Oraby.
“The first half, like the other night, we came out with a defensive fire,” Enfield said. “We were in the passing lanes, we were really active with our hands, and we got out to a 20-point lead just like the other night. It was a very successful first half.”
USC shot 48 percent in the first half compared to UWA’s 31 percent. The Trojans were dangerous from downtown, hitting five of their 10 three-point attempts in the half. They also outrebounded the Tigers 27-19, with Wesley leading the team with 5.
The Trojans held their advantage in the second half, constantly rotating their players in and out. West Alabama cut the halftime deficit to as low as eight thanks to a barrage of 3s, but the early hole was too deep to get out of. USC went on an 11-1 run toward the end of the game, ending any chance of a Tigers comeback.
“I was a little disappointed in the second half,” Enfield said. “We lost our focus at times and gave too many transition baskets away by fumbling the ball or missing easy shots.”
USC finished shooting 43 percent for the game, compared to 34 percent for the Tigers. They ran into trouble with turnovers, committing 13 to UWA’s nine, but held their rebounding edge 42-30.
The Trojans will travel to the Bahamas next week for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. They will face Villanova in Paradise Valley on Nov. 28 at 10 a.m., followed by a match against either Kansas or Wake Forest on Nov. 29 in Nassau.
USC’s next home game will be against Boston College on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4 p.m.