Men’s basketball seek season redemption

Growing pains have been the words of choice to describe the Trojans’ start to the season from those on and around the team. This past week, these growing pains were thrust into the spotlight as USC participated in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, playing against multiple AP-ranked and power five schools. 

“Every game we’ve got better so we just have to take care of the little mistakes and close out games,” said senior guard Boogie Ellis.

They came away from the weekend with one win and two losses, good for a fourth-place finish at the tournament. This puts the Trojans at four wins and three losses on the season, as they now get a small sampling of conference play with two straight Pac-12 matchups in the next week.

USC started off the weekend with a promising win against Brigham Young University with the help of Ellis who tied his career-high with 27 points. The Trojans then put up a great fight against now No. 13 University of Tennessee, losing in overtime to the Vols. The third-place game against Wisconsin was a back-and-forth affair, with the 10 lead changes, but a crucial turnover with 15 seconds left while down three sealed USC’s fate. 

One of the bright spots from the tournament was Ellis, who has seemed to come into his own offensively. Overall he has had a strong start to the season, currently averaging the third most points in the entire Pac-12. He elevated his play even more in the tournament this past week. Across the three games, Ellis averaged 21 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three. Ellis knows the team isn’t far away from putting all the pieces together and coming out with wins instead of losses in these close games.

“I feel like we could be a lot better you know, especially in late-game situations, I feel like I could be better especially being a point guard on the floor,” said Ellis in an interview with the Daily Trojan

From the start of the season, it was known that the Trojans might take a few games to find their identity as a team, but they showed significant improvement at the tournament despite the two losses. The Trojans are shooting more efficiently from the field and have finally woken up from the three-point line. 

Before the tournament, as a team, they were shooting 30% from behind the line, but in their final two games of the tournament, they reached 42%. USC hopes to keep this sharp shooting and strong play going when they take on University of California, Berkeley, who currently has the 276th-ranked three-point defense in division one.

“Everybody in our program knows that we could have won both games [at the tournament]… but when the lights are on Wednesday, we have to be a better and more disciplined offensive team with more patience,” said Head Coach Andy Enfield. “Cal’s a very dangerous team at home, they have good players, an outstanding coach and it’s a road game any road game in this league is tough doesn’t matter who you play.”

The Golden Bears are having a rough start to the season themselves, as they have yet to get a win in seven contests and have even lost to the likes of Texas State and UC Davis. USC and fifth-year guard Drew Peterson will be looking to use this game against Berkely to start their conference schedule on the right note. Peterson has been helping lead the team this year with his playmaking ability, tied for tenth in the nation in assists per game. The only problem is he and USC have a turnover problem, as Peterson is also tied for sixth in the country in turnovers per game.

“I’m really trying to work on being efficient with assists, but not also high turnovers, they cancel out if I got six assists, but six turnovers, doesn’t really matter,” said Peterson. “We’re gonna continue to battle and sometimes, you know the dice doesn’t fall your way…but going into conference play this week we’re expecting to come out 2-0 that’s what we’re gonna be hungry for and we know we need to take care of business.”

The Trojans will be taking on Cal at the Haas Pavilion on Wednesday at 8 p.m., but then come back to the Galen Center on Sunday to face Oregon State at 4 p.m.