The USC men’s basketball team brought pressure on both ends of the floor on Saturday night, resulting in a victory over the Montana Grizzlies, 76-62.
The Trojans have eight new players on the roster this season and with little time to create team chemistry, the team is learning as they go. USC’s 14-point margin was an improvement from the 8-point overtime win in the season opener Wednesday.
Junior transfer guard Drew Peterson adjusted quickly to the fast-paced season and led the Trojans to victory, finishing with a team-high 13 points and two assists.
“What I have noticed is that we have a pretty unselfish team, as shown on the court so far,” Peterson said. “Being 2-0, going into a big week next week, I think we are on the right track.”
Freshman forward Evan Mobley, who shined in the season opener against California Baptist, was the second-leading scorer for USC with 11 points in 31 minutes.
Some of the more experienced players also contributed to the victory, including USC sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley who grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds in the match and graduate transfer Chavez Goodwin who had eight points and seven rebounds.
“Our first night was kind of ugly,” Goodwin said. “It wasn’t our best basketball… but I think this night was a lot better and we played better as a team. Our biggest thing moving forward is focusing on our energy.”
The Trojans started off strong, going into halftime with a 19-point lead, but came out relaxed after the break. Montana freshman guard Brandon Whitney led all scorers with 17 points and helped the Grizzlies stay within range through regulation.
In the first half, the Trojans shot 71% from the field and 67% from the arc while dealing 10 assists. Their chemistry slowed in the last 20 minutes, with USC shooting 32% from the field and 25% from the 3-point line while passing for just seven assists.
“The first half and second half were two different worlds,” Goodwin said. “Obviously the first-half was more free-flowing. The second half was more touchy with fouls, but I think overall we were able to adjust as best as we could and keep the lead.”
On USC’s front, there is still room for improvement with limiting personal fouls and turnovers. The Trojans had a total of 24 personal fouls and 16 turnovers. Fifteen Grizzly points were scored off USC turnovers.
Despite the slow finish, USC head coach Andy Enfield said he is impressed with how his players have adjusted and reacted under the circumstances of a short training period and adjusting to new additions.
“They are a lot of fun to coach,” Enfield said. “They work hard and they have great camaraderie among each other. If they can keep that, we can keep improving as a basketball team.”
The Trojans will head to the Legends Classic in Uncasville, Connecticut, to face BYU Cougars on Dec. 1.