Posted on March 3, 2021
Wow, have we all been fooled.
Not to be immensely dramatic, but USC looked horrible last week. Outside of the first-half explosion against Oregon, it’s been a struggle each half.
It was inevitable for the Trojans’ outstanding play to slow down.
After their season was put on hold in December, USC managed to lose two of their next 16 games.
In the last four games, the Trojans have lost the same amount of games as in the first month and a half of the season.
It’s safe to say that this is clearly the most crucial point of the 2020-21 campaign. They’ve reached their breaking point. And with their backs against the wall, will they prevail?
It’ll take a team effort to finish the season with back-to-back wins against Stanford and UCLA—two schools they have defeated so far.
However, we are in March, and whatever happened in February is seemingly irrelevant. Teams are made now, and USC needs to step up.
I wrote last week that the loss to Arizona was a wake-up call. It highlighted some discrepancies on the offensive end and a lack of assertiveness from certain players.
A week later, the Trojans slept through the alarm and are about to get an unfavorable seed in Indianapolis.
Their play truly has been bizarre at times.
A lack of rhythm on the offensive end, a lack of spirit on the defensive end, and scoring droughts that have sucked the life out of the squad—all the ingredients in a recipe for a First-Round exit in March Madness, not a trip to the Sweet 16.
There isn’t one player responsible for the recent downfall of USC. It would be unfair of me to critique one player, but not talk about another. At the end of the day, basketball is a team game.
The Trojans had some tough matchups in the last week. Outside of a depleted Arizona team, these were games that could have gone either way.
Oregon had been gaining traction, and nobody expected senior guard Tahj Eaddy to score 21 in the first half. It put the game out of reach, but Oregon still battled back to cut it to 10 before the Trojans secured it.
Colorado on the road is always a tough matchup, regardless of how USC is playing. The Buffs match up extremely well and are physical on the block. They also shot over 50% from the three-point line, so there’s that. But, they fully deserved the win.
Utah on the road is no less a battle compared to Colorado. The program has been consistent, but they put together an excellent performance to knock off the Trojans. Similar though to the game against Colorado, they fought back, and once again, Utah always answered back.
USC’s defense has slowed down, allowing Utah to shoot 48% from the field and a whopping 60% from the three-point line. Colorado did much of the same: shooting 47% from the field and 55% from three.
It poses the question: Are the Trojans suffering on defense, or are opposing teams just making everything?
I believe it’s the latter, but it can be attributed to lack of closeouts and effort on the defensive end.
There were too many defensive lapses against both mountain squads, leading to easy baskets. Whenever USC would gain some momentum on the offensive end, either a man would be open for a three or they’d beat a defender going back door.
The Trojans have lost the little things during a time when every little thing counts the most.
These are moments where we find out if teams are for real. So far, USC hasn’t shown they are, but they can prove it now.
—More from Anthony Gharib—
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