Brimming with inexperience, the USC men’s basketball team has struggled to establish its offensive identity thus far. Through seven games, the Trojans (3-4) have averaged 57.1 points per game average — a drop from its 66.2 points per game average a season ago.
“I think offensive consistency is going to come with experience,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “The fact of the matter is we lost 90 percent of points, rebounds and assists [from last year’s team]. It’s tough to be great offensively when that happens. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Aside from sophomore guard Maurice Jones and redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, who average 16.0 and 13.9 points per game respectively, the Trojans have received sporadic scoring contributions from their other players. USC’s third leading scorer, redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon, at 7.7 points per game, scored 15 points against South Carolina, but, in the three previous games, scored a total of nine.
“We played a lot of good basketball at the Las Vegas Invitational,” O’Neill said. “[Dedmon] and [Fuller] fouled out in the UNLV game with seven minutes left when it was a two-point game. I thought we played well there, and had a big win against South Carolina. [Dedmon’s] improving, and hopefully he can become more of a scoring option for us.”
Imbued with confidence after salvaging a .500 record at the Las Vegas Invitational, the USC men’s basketball team heads to Riverside tonight to square off against UC Riverside (2-4) at 7 p.m. UC Riverside, on Sunday afternoon, rallied to erase a 14-point, second-half deficit against Washington State to win 64-63.
“UC Riverside is coming off a big win against Washington State,” O’Neill said. “They’re a team that’s very well-coached. We’re playing at their place. In college basketball, when you’re on the road anywhere, it’s going to be a tough game.”
Senior guard Phil Martin leads UC Riverside in scoring, averaging 14.3 points. The Highlanders’ calling card, however, is their defense, as they allow just 58.8 points per game.
As usual, USC will rely heavily on Jones, who was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 19 points and three assists in three games.
“[Jones] is a guy who would rather play off the ball than on the ball,” O’Neill said. “But, with [Fontan] out, he’s forced to play all of the minutes with ball in his hand. What’s going to be important is that [Jones] develops as a young player. He’s still a sophomore. The more he steps up offensively, the better we’re going to be.”