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January 5, 2014
USC boatraced at Pauley
The UCLA fans had it exactly right. And how often do we get to say that?
"Just like football," they chanted gleefully as the Bruins rolled on virtually without challenge to a 107-73 romp Sunday in Pauley Pavilion.
Worse than football, but you get the idea. The Bruins came out, punched the Trojans in the mouth, watched them panic and forget how to play even a little bit, and laughed all the way to the century mark and beyond.
Sounds ugly, no?
Well, if you had the bad luck from a Trojan perspective to witness it in person, it looked and felt even uglier.
One reason might have been that in scoring 107 points, the most ever by a UCLA team in the 239 games in this crosstown "rivalry" that was anything but on this day.
"It wasn't too fun," USC Coach Andy Enfield said as he fell to 0-1 in his inaugural start against UCLA while Steve Alford improved to 1-0 (3-0 all time) against USC after a Bruin highlight reel of 40 minutes of pure unguarded bliss for his men in blue.
Even his son, freshman Bryce Alford, chimed in with a career-high 20 points. But the big damage came from 6-foot--8 guard Kyle Anderson, whose 23 points and 12 rebounds were his seventh double-double of the season.
That we have to spell this out is part of the problem since it seems the Trojans hadn't heard of Anderson or even thought to put a hand in his face or a body in his way as he hit on 10 of 14 mostly wide-open looks. Nor did they think to defend Alford (four of six from tree-point range) or Jordan Adams (21 points on five-of-eight shooting from three-land).
"He's real tall," USC's leading scorer Byron Wesley said. "He's long . . . and he can dribble."
Not often do you hear that noted in a basketball story in 2014 but it was worth mentioning after a game where it sure looked like the Trojans couldn't. Couldn't hit the floor with a bouncing basketball before dribbling it off their foot, ankle or leg.
At least not in the first half when USC had 13 turnovers to UCLA's three as the Bruins flew out to a 56-34 edge from which there was no coming back. Sound familiar?
It should. And this is where the "Just like football," chanters were correct. UCLA was ready to play, came out with a good gameplan, executed it with poise -- and USC did not. Not in any of those categories.
Although Wesley, who finished with 21 points, said he thought USC had the right gameplan going and was coming in off some of the better practices of the year.
Enfield, hopefully, said they'd be back at work Tuesday for the invasion of the Arizona teams this weekend, "with a new gameplan . . . "
Not sure if that's because this one, the stand around in the halfcourt in a passive man or slow-shifting zone, matching the stand-around-in-a-passive halfcourt offense shooting from the perimeter with guys who can't shoot is probably not the way to go in a conference where teams are going to break down all your tendencies and be able to take them away from you as UCLA did.
Not a great defensive team, the Bruins often beat USC's ballhandlers to the passing lanes and disrupted the Trojans offense from the first, holding USC to 26 of 62 from the field (41.9 perent). That's in contrast to a UCLA team that shot better from three-point range (47.8 percent on 11 od 23) than USC shot from the field while hitting on 57.7 percent (41 of 71) for the game.
And Brett Hundley was nowhere in sight. But then neither were Anderson, Adams or Alford.
"Welcome to the Big Boys League," one particularly leather-lunged UCLA fan called out as the Bruins hit the 100 mark with 5:24 on an unguarded (yeah, a redundancy, we know) three-pointer by freshman Zach LaVine.
"Fast enough for you?" another called out referencing Enfield's published comments in a preseason practice shot at his slow-moving Trojans that "if you want to walk the ball up, you can go to UCLA."
Andy didn't agree that had anything to do with it. His players just ddn't play. Coaches can only do so much, he said.
"Players win games. Coaches come up with game plans but players have to perform and ours have to show better leadership," Enfield said.
Especially the guards. Enfield pulled out the stat sheet and noted that "when their guards score 89 points with 17 rebounds," or something like that but he was close on the numbers.
"Whatcha gonna do when the Bruins guards come for you?" he seemed to be saying.
"Our guards played poorly, their guards played great."
But in addition to the talent edge, their guards had something else: a gameplan they had confidence in and one they could execute."
USC had neither.
And now they talk in ways that can be taken with both a good and bad spin.
"It's a long year," Wesley said after just one game in thePac-12. Already?
But of course, he meant the Trojans have 17 more chances to get this right.
Although with a similar effort on defense in any of them, the only hope would seem to be a Washington State team that managed just seven points in the first half Saturday and 25 in the full game at Arizona.
Other than that, this is a USC team, with this effort and inspiration and confidence and ability to execute, really not ready for prime time.
Or even Sunday's noon tipoff.
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.