It was a classic tale of two halves in Philadelphia, as the USC men’s basketball team earned a 76-71 victory over Temple on Saturday night.
The Trojans appeared to be well on their way to another blowout win, leading by 19 points at the halftime break. However, the Owls came roaring back with a series of scoring runs in the second half to make the game competitive until the final buzzer.
Following a layup from redshirt senior forward Chevez Goodwin that gave USC a 23-point cushion early in the second half, the team’s largest lead of the night, Temple ripped off a 22-3 scoring run over the next six minutes to cut the deficit to four. During that span, Temple shot 8-for-12 from the field as a team, including 5-for-6 from three-point range. The Trojans, on the other hand, lost all their previous offensive rhythm, shooting 0-for-8 and turning the ball over four times in that stretch. The team went 7:51 of game time without making a field goal as the Owls came storming back.
“We were playing very well, and all of a sudden we got selfish on offense,” head coach Andy Enfield explained regarding the disparity between the two halves. “We didn’t move the ball, we took tough shots and at the other end they were getting second chance points. They made four threes on broken plays. Temple played great in the second half; they’re gonna be a good team this year.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Tai Strickland capped off the Temple run by hitting a pull-up 3-pointer midway through the second frame, but junior forward Isaiah Mobley finally stopped the bleeding with a triple of his own on the ensuing possession to quiet the increasingly raucous home crowd.
The Trojan lead never grew larger than eight points for the remainder of the game, but the team found a way to answer back whenever Temple came too close for comfort. When the Owls got the game back to within five points in the final three minutes, junior guard Ethan Anderson hit a crucial three on an assist from senior guard Drew Peterson, who was driving the lane.
The closest the Owls came to a comeback was three points, on a made free throw from sophomore guard Kalif Battle with nine seconds remaining. On the next possession, Peterson went 2-for-2 at the stripe after being fouled intentionally to give USC a five-point lead and put the game on ice.
In the end, Temple outscored the Trojans in the second half 44-30, but the team still pulled out the victory because of a dominant first 20 minutes. The team shot 60% from the field in the first half and held Temple to just 31% shooting. Temple tried to establish their three-point shot early on to no avail, making just one shot on 10 attempts beyond the arc.
While Temple struggled with its perimeter shooting, USC dominated near the basket. Twenty-eight of its 46 first-half points were scored in the paint, while the Owls only put up eight. Temple did not play terrible defense down low, but the Trojans weres crafty near the basket and used their size to their advantage to create offense. When the Owls tried to score in the low post themselves, the defense overwhelmed them with ball pressure, forcing bad shots and turnovers. Temple turned the ball over eight times in the first half, and the Trojans scored 12 points off those turnovers while only allowing five points on turnovers of their own.
USC’s scoring today came from a multitude of sources. Four players scored in double figures for the Trojans, led by Chevez Goodwin. Goodwin finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, his biggest offensive output as a Trojan. The redshirt senior also tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Redshirt senior guard Isaiah White also had a strong game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and making key plays in the paint early.
“Chevez had great footwork in the post; he was making left-hand jump hooks, right-hand, he spun a few times,” Enfield said on Goodwin’s strong performance. “He’s a relentless player, he gives great energy every possession. He’s probably the most relentless player we’ve had in a long time, just with his effort, and I think he was a huge part of our win tonight.”
While Drew Peterson and junior guard Boogie Ellis did not have the same explosive production that they did on opening night, shooting a combined 4-for-13 from the field, they were able to contribute to the game in other ways. Peterson led the team with eight assists, and Ellis hit the most free throws of anyone in the game, going 7-for-9 at the line. Ellis also led the team with two steals.
Reflecting on the team’s balanced offensive performance, Enfield said, “We have a lot of depth on our team. We don’t know who’s gonna play well every night. We hope that more than two or three play well. I think in the first half everybody played great, and in the second half we started struggling, and some of the guys picked it up in the last six minutes.”
For Temple, the scoring was much less balanced. Battle finished with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting and was 5-of-9 from three, but no other Owl scored more than nine points.
This win improves the Trojans to 2-0 on the young season, but it holds significant meaning for Enfield in particular. The victory was his 200th as a collegiate head coach, 159 of which came as the head man in Los Angeles.
USC will remain in the Eastern Time Zone for its next game on Tuesday against Florida Gulf Coast, the school where Enfield earned the first 41 wins of his coaching career. Tip off will be at 3 p.m.