USC men’s basketball rebounds from upset loss with big win over Alabama State

The Trojans get their first win of the season, but there is still room for improvement.

Drew Peterson attacks the paint with his left hand in his white USC uniform, while an Alabama State defender, in black, tries to keep up.

USC was seeking redemption Thursday night for their loss to FGCU, and they did not disappoint. In their last game, the Trojans had 15 turnovers and allowed the Eagles to mount a comeback in the second half to win 74-61.

However, this game turned out to be much different, with a dominant performance by the Trojans on Thursday night to beat Alabama State 96-58 at Galen Center. It was their highest margin of victory since last year’s opener.

USC Head coach Andy Enfield said after the game, “They really came out, played and tried to play the right way. Share the basketball, make plays for each other, and played very hard.”

USC proved the first game will not represent the whole season, as the Trojans looked like a completely different team on the court, having five players in double-digit scoring. It seemed like for the whole game, you could hear the crowd chanting “THREE!,” as the Trojans were relentless in hitting from behind the arc, going 11-of-23. In comparison, USC went 3-of-19 in 3-point shooting against FGCU.

The Trojans’ passing was much more fluid and contributed to the overall game improvement. They were much more willing to pass the ball, which allowed them to open up more shots and layups. USC went after the ball for most of the game, forcing 20 turnovers. The team chemistry prevailed, and it was obvious USC spent the week making adjustments.

However, at first the game did not seem like it was going to go like this. In the start, both teams were going back and forth, and the game stayed tight. Alabama State even had the lead at one point, even if it was for a brief 12 seconds. It took about 10 minutes for the Trojans to separate themselves from the Hornets, but then USC started to heat up.

Through constant movement and passing, USC soon led Alabama State by 10 points, and the lead kept on increasing. Fifth-year guard Drew Peterson and redshirt junior forward Joshua Morgan looked unstoppable, as they continuously made shot after shot.

The end of the first half continued to go in the Trojans’ favor. True freshman guard Tre White ended the half emphatically, making a buzzer-beating deep 3-pointer. The Trojans would end the first half leading 48-23.

The second half was where the game was truly won, as USC put a beating on the Hornets. The Trojans came out hot and quickly extended their lead to 30 points. Peterson did not let up, as he effortlessly made baskets. He finished the game with 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Senior guard Boogie Ellis did not disappoint either, recording seven steals and racking up 15 points.

Another key player was Morgan. He silenced a lot of critics tonight, being able to move a lot smoother and get to the ball quicker than he did last season. Morgan positioned himself correctly in the paint, leading a successful night shooting 5-for-7. He finished the night with 11 points.

The star power of Peterson, Ellis and Morgan, along with others, helped USC win by a margin just shy of 40 points. However, even with such a great margin of victory, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Last season and Monday’s game saw a Trojans team cursed with turnovers, and that was no different against Alabama State. USC had 17 turnovers — an unacceptable number for Enfield. The Trojans also often had difficulty going after rebounds. The Hornets even outscored USC 10-2 in the last three minutes of the game while forcing four turnovers.

“I thought up to the four-minute mark we were playing really well in most areas,” Enfield said. “Even though we had a big lead, we expected our bench guys to play as well as the other guys did.”

The Trojans have to play for the full 40 minutes in their next game against Vermont on Tuesday, November 14, at 8 p.m. at Galen Center. The Catamounts are not an easy opponent as defending America East Conference champions that entered last year’s NCAA tournament as a No. 13 seed. This can easily be another upset if USC is not careful.

Morgan recognizes the threat of UVM, saying USC needs to go into games “with the mentality that any team can beat us” and that his team is “really locking in and preparing this week.” The Trojans need to keep moving the ball effectively, making plays for each other and turn the ball over less frequently to grab a decisive win over the Catamounts.

USC hopes to build momentum into the seasons against UVM Tuesday at 8:00 pm at Galen Center.