So the loss to Mercer surprised me, but I can't say that I was shocked, especially when you consider the circumstances. Daniel Hackett was out with a broken jaw. Marcus Simmons did not play because he was a little banged up, and Davon Jefferson sat because he does not execute the system yet. Taj Gibson is banged up as well, and looked a little timid on offense. Add the fact that Tim Floyd's teams normally start slow due to learning periods for the offense and the man to man help defense (losses the last two seasons to Cal State Northridge, Oral Roberts, and a poor South Carolina team), and a poor opener shouldn't be a shocker, especially with so many new guys.
What hurt the Trojans in the game was a lack of energy and effort in the first half. The halfcourt defense was poor, and the transition defense was non-existent. Mercer shot 59% from the field. SC was brutal offensively in the first half, shooting only 29%, and the Trojans ended the game with 19 turnovers. The second half featured a valiant effort that cut the lead to three points after it ballooned to 21, but some poor decisions down the stretch helped Mercer to regain control and cruise to the upset.
Well, where do the Trojans go from here? On the road until the end of November. It all starts with a two game swing in South Carolina, starting with a contest against The Citadel.
Things To Know About The Bulldogs
Not much is expected of The Citadel this season. As a military academy, it is very hard for them to get talent. Last season in head coach Ed Conroy's first year at the school, the team finished 7-23. But Conroy has added a solid recruiting class which is highly regarded by followers of the Southern Conference. Nine freshmen come in, so the group is extremely young. Senior Demetrius Nelson is the guy to watch though. He's a 6-8 center, so he is definitely undersized, but he had a good season last year, and led the team in scoring against South Carolina with 16 points.
The Bulldogs did not start a single guy from last year's starting five against the Gamecocks. Four freshmen started with Nelson in the first game, and the game was a disaster. They got beat 103-42. South Carolina shot 52% from the field, including 50% from behind the arc. The Bulldogs shot 27%, including 10% from three point country. I don't expect that to happen again, especially at home.
This team is very much an unknown because they play so many freshmen. Besides Nelson, junior Jonathan Brick was the only non-freshman who played in the game, and he only locked 16 minutes and took two shots.
Last season, the Bulldogs tried to play slow it down, grind it out basketball. Still, they were a very poor defensive team and they weren't great on the glass. But there's little that you can tell from last year because they have so few players back.
In essence they are a three guard, two forward team. They lack size. They couldn't keep South Carolina's Devan Downey out of the lane. When you lose by 61 points, there aren't many positives.
If the Trojans lose this game, some major alarm bells should go off. After beating SC, Mercer played a tight game with Alabama, so they might be a decent basketball team. USC could have Hackett back, which would be a nice boost. I'm sure that they got blasted by the coaching staff for their effort in the Mercer game, and are looking to get into the win column. This is already a pretty big game. The Trojans play South Carolina on Saturday, so if SC loses to The Citadel, it would be hard to picture them winning against the Gamecocks. Then in the near future, the Trojans have possible games against MAC favorite Miami of Ohio and #21 Southern Illinois, and scheduled games against undefeated Oklahoma, #4 Kansas, and #3 Memphis. The so called gimme wins must be locked up.
I think the Trojans will be fine in this game. Mercer had a veteran team with some talent. The Citadel is extremely young, and it seems like the program is starting from scratch. The Trojans will come out with some urgency and play well early, and should coast to an easy victory against an undermanned team. An improved defensive effort will be the key.
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