Men’s basketball looks to bounce back from early loss

first_imgRedshirt junior guard Derryck Thornton dribbles the ball against Vanderbilt. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)After men’s basketball’s 82-78 loss to Vanderbilt on Sunday, head coach Andy Enfield said that his team is looking for an identity amidst multiple injuries to start the season. The Trojans will face Stetson Wednesday night at home in an opportunity to establish themselves on ball movement and defense, both focuses for Enfield.“That’s who we are and who we try to be,” Enfield said. “We’ve been very successful the last three years doing so. We just need to get healthy and have everybody gel together.”With such a tight margin of defeat, it’s worth wondering if USC could have beaten a talented Vanderbilt team if the Trojans were at full strength. Freshman guard Elijah Weaver is still recovering from ankle surgery, and senior Bennie Boatwright has yet to return from his knee injury. He will be a gametime decision on Wednesday.“Bennie looks good; he’s getting in shape, and we hope to have him play this week at some point,” Enfield said. Boatwright said he felt good about his knee and his chances to play Wednesday. Stetson would be a good opponent for Boatwright to make his return against if he’s fully healthy, as he could have the time to find his rhythm in a game USC should win handily. Boatwright also said that when he does return to the court, he will focus on providing leadership for a Trojan squad that has occasionally seemed out of sorts during the first two games.“It’s just about making smart plays,” Boatwright said. “Everybody makes mistakes, but we’re just trying to limit those.”USC has suffered from poor starts in the early going, averaging 36.5 first half points as opposed to 44 in the second frame. In both games, the Trojans struggled with sloppy turnovers and missed shots, but became a more cohesive offensive unit as the game progressed, exemplified by an 11-3 run early in the second half against Vanderbilt that gave the Trojans a lead.“We just needed to start running our sets and getting shots that were open for us, better shot selection and rebounding,” sophomore forward Jordan Usher said. “And it’s pushing it and doing stuff that’s under control.”The Trojans said they were confident that continued game reps would polish their offense and make them one of the most dangerous teams in the country.“The first two games are always tough, people are trying to figure out what their role is, how many shots you’re going to take throughout the whole season,” junior guard Jonah Mathews said. “It basically happens every year. After the third or fourth game you get rolling, you get comfortable, you know what your role is, you know what you have to do to help the team win. I feel like that’s going to happen [in] the next few games for us.”Stetson shouldn’t provide much of a challenge. Hailing from Florida, the Hatters are 1-1 and play in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They can’t match the Trojans’ talent, but they shouldn’t be taken lightly.“They’re long and athletic, and they play an up-tempo game,” Enfield said. “They play very well together. So we can’t just focus on one player because all five guys can beat you at any time.”The Hatters are led by sophomore guard Christiaan Jones and junior forward Ricardo Lynch, who have combined to average 32.5 of the Hatters’ 93 points per game thus far. Although listed at 6-foot-4 and only 175 pounds, Jones has averaged eight rebounds per game and will be a factor on the glass.Stetson was dominant in a 116-66 win to open the season against Johnson University, but it fell flat in an 83-70 loss to Missouri State. The Hatters shot just 26-of-74 from the field, including 8-of-31 from deep. However, they did have 18 offensive rebounds, which could be an advantage against a Trojan team that allowed 19 offensive rebounds to Vanderbilt.USC and Stetson tip off at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center on Wednesday.last_img

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