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November 16, 2013

Wesley's career night saves USC

It took a career night from Byron Wesley and a near historic night in Galen Center for USC to beat visiting Northern Arizona Friday, 67-63, in a game USC trailed by 12 well into the second half.

And yes, this is the same NAU team that lost its best player to start the season and lost by 20 points to Texas Tech earlier in the week.

On balance, USC (2-1) will take the win. Better by far than the alternative. But there were lots of holes here. Terrible first half with almost no energy in falling behind 40-30.

Another bad job on the defensive boards, giving up 18 offensive rebounds for the second straight game, this time to a relatively unathletic, immobile Lumberjack team that looked like its namesake.

Unbelievably bad effort from three-point range (two of 12) and the free throw line (19 of 36).

No one but Wesley in double figures as he fell just a single point short of O.J. Mayo's Galen Center high of 32 points.

"I couldn't take him out," Coach Andy Enfield said. "I hope some guys step up and join him."

Two freshmen who started, and then came back in for some second-half energy, may be the answer. The first was 6-foot-10 Nikola Jovanovic, with nine points on four-of-eight shooting and six rebounds. The second was 6-3 guard Julian Jacobs, with five plus seven rebounds. They look like the candidates there.

J.T. Terrell, a nonstarter for the second straight game, looked mostly lost on an 0-for-6 night from the field, looked mostly lost.

Same for Omar Oraby, who showed his 7-foot-2 frame with five blocks but despite saying he was going to have to demand the ball, got off just four shots. One however, after a final minute timeout, did put USC ahead 65-63 in a nicely drawn up set by Enfield.

There was this bright spot, Enfield noted. "We held them to 31 percent shooting. If we defend like that, we'll be in every game."

Only they won't be playing Northern Arizona every game. That's the worry here. And instead of falling behind by 12, and able to catch up at home, they'll get crushed when they come out with so little energy or ability to finish.

But take Wesley's 11 of 16 shooting out of the totals and the Trojans for the rest of the team were 12 of 36 from the field -- 33 percent. Can't win that way no matter how much defense you play.

Then there's the matter of those defensive rebounds USC isn't coming up with. "We get our hands on a lot of balls," Enfield said. "But with four freshmen, we're not strong enough to come up with them. We've got to get them into the weight room."

And then there's the shooting. "We have no great shooters," Enfield said, "but a lot of streaky shooters. We have to take great shots."

But unless you're playing against cardboard cutouts, you have to play with energy to do that. USC didn't the first half. And only some of the time in the second.

They're going to have to get over that first-half malaise, as if they're trying to remember the last 100 things the coaching staff told them to do. Looking a little like the football team in the bad old days this fall.

Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at weber@uscfootball.com.



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