USC opened its season with a dominating 77-48 victory against Florida A&M University. The Trojans started slow but found their rhythm for a dominating second-half performance.
The starting lineup consisted of freshman point guard Ethan Anderson, sophomore point guard Elijah Weaver, freshman power forward Isaiah Mobley, senior forward Nick Rakocevic and freshman center Onyeka Okongwu.
However, the shining stars of the game were this year’s freshmen.
USC enters this college basketball season with the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation, marking the Trojan’s highest-rated assembly of newcomers since 2007.
Coveted recruit and freshman center Onyeka Okongwu hails from Chino Hills high school, where he led the team to a Division 1 State title. Forward Isaiah Mobley from Murrieta, Calif., was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the state of California by 247Sports and the No. 4 power forward in the country. His athletic playing style is set to make an immediate impact for the Trojans, and many analysts predict he’ll soar to the top of NBA draft charts in 2020.
Both proved their value on the college court with Okongwu scoring a total of 20 points and tying the school record of eight blocks. Mobley also dominated the floor with 17 points. Okongwu and Mobley have a long history on the court; the duo have been playing together since they were sixteen.
USC’s head coach Andy Enfield spoke highly of Okongwu’s performance. “Onyeka’s freshman debut is pretty impressive. With eight blocked shots and his rebounding, he has a natural gift," said Enfield.
The Trojans struggled in the first half from the free-throw line, an area where the team performed poorly last season. USC ranked 336 out of 353 in the nation last year with 64.5% made free throws. They ended their first game at 60.9%.
USC’s poor first-half performance was largely a result of the Trojans forcing the ball outside the arc early. By the end of the game, USC only had three made 3-pointers on 17 attempts.
Okongwu and Mobley increased the Trojans’ size, allowing the team to improve on rebounding. USC was troubled last season with allowing offensive rebounds, ranking No. 295 nationally in that category. USC was able to win its first rebounding battle of the year, outrebounding FAMU 49 to 40 during the game and recording 17 offensive rebounds.
Enfield said the team’s pace in the second half was the key difference to improve the Trojans’ play. “In the second half, we went inside...we got on transition a couple of times and shared the basketball,” said Enfield.
The Trojans outscored the Rattlers by 28 points in the second half, ending the game with a blow-out 29-point victory. USC’s next match will be against the Portland Pilots of the West Coast Conference. The tip-off will be on Friday at 8 p.m. at the Galen Center.