With Oregon falling to California on the road Thursday night, there was an opening for No. 23 Southern California to gain a game in the standings and pull even with the Ducks for the Pac-12 lead.
Unfortunately for Andy Enfield, the Trojans just couldn’t take advantage.
USC fell to Arizona State on Friday 74-67. Center Nikola Jovanovic was terrific inside for the Trojans, scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. However, the Sun Devils outplayed the Trojans significantly on the perimeter.
Tra Holder, one of the most improved players in the Pac-12, scored 20 points and dished out four assists. Also, Gerry Blakes had a great overall game, scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and putting down five dimes to his teammates. On the whole, the Sun Devils made eight 3s, which outpaced USC’s entire attempt output from the beyond the arc until the final minute. They won the turnover battle by five, as Julian Jacobs struggled to hold onto the ball in committing seven turnovers. Moving inside, the Sun Devils also outrebounded USC on the offensive end 16 to 9.
That’s basically 12 extra possessions for the Sun Devils, and it ended up being the ballgame.
USC has taken a massive step forward this season, but to move into the league’s elite it’s going to need to get better floor spacing from the shooters. On the season, the Trojans are shooting 39 percent from 3, which is good for 26th nationally. However, the number has been falling over the past month.
Katin Reinhardt’s shot has been a bit off, as he’s only 15 of 51 from behind the arc since the calendar turned to 2016. Jacobs isn’t much of a shooter at the point guard spot. Bennie Boatwright had been providing some shooting from the 4 position, but since Jan. 8 he’s only 10 for 41 from behind the arc and he seems to have lost a bit of confidence in his stroke recently. This is a fixable problem over time. Heck, the samples are all pretty small, too, so it might not even require an adjustment. But if USC is to become a contender, it’s going to need to be a bit more consistent shooting the basketball moving forward.
Look, it’s easy to say that a team needs to shoot better. But spacing the floor is so critical in Enfield’s offense, and knocking down and generating open shots is the key to the success of that system. If USC does it, it is among the better teams in all of the country. If the Trojans can’t, they can go down on any night.