Los Angeles, CA — What better pick-me-up for the middle of the week than men’s college basketball, especially when it includes the University of Southern California Trojans.
USC went head-to-head against Florida’s Stetson University Wednesday night at the Galen Center, taking home a much-needed 95-59 home victory.
This game marked the third game of the season and each team was going in with a record of 1-1. With the big-name USC, the Trojans were expected to win, but the Stetson Hatters planned for the best.
The Hatters gained first possession in the first half, but their gain was cut short due to a jump ball within the first minute. USC quickly took over their home court when junior forward Nick Rakocevic took a fast break into the paint and dunked, creating a six-point lead.
The momentum started to pick up when all of a sudden USC freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. appeared to hurt his ankle as he limped off the court. Jordan Usher took his place, but Stetson saw this loss for USC as a gain and took advantage of the moment. Stetson forward Abayomi Lyiola made a layup, scoring the team’s first point of the night. This field goal was followed by a turnover as USC guard Derryck Thornton lost the ball, which paved way for the other team to steal. Unfortunately for Stetson, Raine McKeython missed his layup.
Luckily for USC, Porter Jr. was back and ready by the sixth minute, while the Trojans already created a 14-4 lead. Off the bench, Porter Jr. went outside the paint and made a shot, increasing the point gap once more. The score read 16-4.
With the emptiness of the crowd and the expected win, USC seemed to play it cool on the court. They weren’t blocking as much, they were missing shots, and they were throwing the ball in wrong directions. However, they still managed to maintain the lead all throughout the first half.
Rakocevic stole the first half with 10 points. Jonah Matthews and Porter Jr. tied for second most with six points each as the Trojans went into halftime with a 39-24 lead.
Despite coming into the second half down by 15, Stetson remained hopeful and did not give up. The Hatters had two major instances of back-to-back-to-back shots. The first instance took place within the first two minutes of the second half with a layup in the paint and a shot out the paint by forward Ricardo Lynch and a jump shot made by Abayomi Lyiola. The score read 46-30 by the end of the third.
The second time the Hatters hit three shots in a row was toward the end of the night with the help of Kenny Aninye and Christian Jones. Stetson’s Jones scored the most points for his team in the second half, scoring 9 of his 11 in the half.
Stetson head coach Corey Williams gave his team praise while also acknowledging that USC forced them to abandon their game plan.
“Our game plan was to keep it close and play tough. We realize they are a very well coached team, and defensively we wanted to contain them and make them shoot tough shots to get the rebound,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. They made shots earlier. “When you look up and you’re down by 15, you’re down 20, it makes it that much tougher to get back into the basketball game.”
Stetson’s determination did not lead them to victory tonight, since USC ended up taking the win 95-59. USC’s Bennie Boatwright (4-of-6 from 3-point range) and Rakocevic tied for the most points scored on Wednesday night with a total of 16.
USC Head Coach Andy Enfield shared his thoughts on his team’s performance.
“It’s been Bennie’s first game since February,” Enfield said. “He hurt his knee here, so it’s great to see him back out there. I thought he played great basketball. And Elijah (Weaver) did give us a big lift. He’s going to be a terrific player.”
The USC Trojans will have their next game against Texas Tech on November 19 at 6:30 pm PST, while Stetson University will be back at it on November 17 when they compete against Southeastern Louisiana at 2:30 pm PST.