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Ups and Downs
The Trojans dominated the first half tonight taking a 43-26 lead into the break, but never found their stroke in the final 20 minutes leading to some nervy moments down the stretch. "We are a work in progress," said head coach Andy Enfield about his extremely young team. "If we play like we did in the first half, we can compete with anyone on our schedule. If we play like we did in the second, it's going to be a long season." While the offense disappeared in the second half, the defense was consistent all night holding Vermont to 30.2% shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
Ins and Outs
USC accounted for 59 of its 64 points by scoring 42 in the paint and 17 more at the free throw line. The good news is that the big men were effective inside, but the guards could not get a jumper to drop. "A lot of our guys are young and they're streaky and they're figuring it out," Enfield explained. "Our interior play really carried us most of the game." In particular, Strahinja Gavrilovic bullied his way to a career-high 15 points thanks to 9/12 from the free throw line. "That's what it takes to win games," Gavrilovic said about his physical style. He also knows the entire team will have to bring that same intensity to pickup road wins in conference play, saying, "Effort has to be 100% all the time."
Highs and Lows
The Trojans emerged 8-4 from non-conference with quality road wins at New Mexico and Boston College. "I'm proud of our guys. We won six out of seven games," said Enfield about the latest stretch. While he joked that he wants his team to "make my job a little easier" in Pac-12 play, he knows that is unlikely as the opponents and atmospheres only get tougher. USC will travel to No. 10 Utah (Friday at 7 p.m. PT) and Colorado (Sunday at 11 a.m. PT) which is perhaps the most difficult road pair in the Pac-12 this season. The young Trojans will be keen to avoid the lulls that cost them games against Portland State and Army, while continuing to show the improvement that set them on this hot streak.
Here are tonight's highlights: