Enfield’s Passive Trojans Need To Rebound Fast

Another deflating late-season loss underlines what’s at stake for USC.

Now, in the wake of a deflating 81-72 defeat to an unremarkable Arizona team on Saturday, the Trojans have to be asking themselves something entirely different.

Are they really the best team Enfield has coached in his eight seasons at USC? Or are they bound to repeat the cycle of crashing and burning after looking as if they could make college basketball important again on this stretch of Figueroa Street?

The Trojans have one of the most talented players in the country in freshman Evan Mobley, a likely top-five selection in the next NBA draft.

They have won 13 of their last 15 games and are ranked 17th in the country.

They are tied for first place in the Pac-12.

Until the Trojans can prove otherwise, however, the onus remains on Enfield to show the program can create magic in March.

The coming week will be instructive.

They will host Oregon on Monday in a makeup game, the difficulty of taking on a fellow conference title contender magnified by a last-minute scheduling change. Until Thursday morning, the Trojans believed they were playing Stanford.

The game against the Ducks will be followed by road games against Colorado and Utah, the Buffaloes responsible for one of USC’s three Pac-12 losses.

“That’s where mental toughness comes in,” Enfield said.

The Trojans displayed a minimal amount of such resilience Saturday at Galen Center, when they looked as if they were awakened from afternoon naps only minutes before they tipped off against the Wildcats.

Enfield’s players allowed themselves to be pushed around by the visitors, who began the game with as many conference defeats as victories.

USC shot better than Arizona in the opening half, 48.3% to 41.7%. But the Wildcats had a 21-16 edge in rebounding, which helped them take a 37-31 lead into the break.

The Trojans were outrebounded in a game for only the third time this season; they lost the two other games as well.

Mobley was an embodiment of the team’s passivity, with his first shot not coming until he made a layup with 5 minutes 8 seconds remaining in the opening half.

At halftime, Enfield and his assistants made it a point to mention the statistics of Arizona’s frontcourt players. Azuolas Tubelis already had a double-double. Jordan Brown (left) had already 11 points, and finished with 19.

Mobley responded by scoring USC’s first eight points of the second half and erased the six-point deficit.

“When he’s dominant like that offensively, he garners a lot of attention,” point guard Tahj Eaddy said. “He makes the game easier for everyone else.”

Except Eaddy was the only player who was able to take advantage.

Mobley finished with 23 points and Eaddy with 17. No other Trojan scored more than eight.

“We didn’t play our best game,” Enfield acknowledged.

Enfield defended his team’s mental fortitude, pointing to how the Trojans have played well defensively and won close games.

He’s counting on his players learning from the upset. He believes they will, which is why he said he didn’t say much to them after.

The season will depend on it. The program’s future could too. This is around the time Enfield’s teams usually start unraveling.

Even not counting Enfield’s first two seasons at USC, when the Trojans finished last in the Pac-12, his teams before this season had a February record of 16-22.

This season has inspired optimism that Enfield has figured out something, with the Trojans winning their first five games this month. Saturday served as a bucket of cold water.

If the Trojans are the team Enfield believes they are, the setback will serve as a cautionary tale that will prepare them to help Enfield win his first Pac-12 championship and reach his first Sweet 16 with USC.

But this game also could have been a warning of disappointments that are ahead, that this program is destined to remain an afterthought.

__________

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Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
Golden Trojan (@golden-trojan)
February 21, 2021 4:36 pm

SC went up against a team that was as tall but also thicker. They pushed SC around and controlled the boards. The younger Mobley may be great but he could use some beef. Of course, heaven forbid he stays around another season or two and gets his body more mature. He just looks too skinny for the NBA.

LawyerJohn
Knighted Member
LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
February 21, 2021 12:23 pm

It was a big game against once-great Arizona, and SC drew its biggest carboard-crowd in years…. The “play of the game” was that big white Arizona Center bulling his way past a Mobley with Mobley acting as if a matador waving his cape… Our boys had a sniff of getting back into the game at the 10-minutes-to-go mark. Down by 8, they were given 6 free throw shots and then possession of the ball, for a chance at 9 points and actually take the lead. But they got only 3 points. And then Arizona ran away with the game… Oh… Read more »

rleeholder1
Noble Member
rleeholder1 (@rleeholder1)
February 21, 2021 5:29 am

Free throw shooting must improve on this team! At one point in the second half, we had 6 free throws without a second coming off the clock due to personal fouls and technical fouls called on Arizona. We made only 3. The graphic on the television indicated we are 318th in the Nation and last in the PAC-12 in free throw shooting percentage. That’s pathetic! As any basketball aficionado will tell you, you can’t win tight games down the stretch without clutch free throw shooting. The Trojans really need some work in this facet of the game.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
February 21, 2021 8:23 am
Reply to  rleeholder1

rlee, I hope all is well in AZ. A coach is what a coach is. This is Enfield 8th season at SC; in his 2nd season at Florida Gulf Coast (his job prior to SC), he went to the Sweet 16. In his last 6 seasons at SC (last year does not count as there was no tournament), he made the tournament twice losing in the first round and the second. His teams have two common traits: they all are lousy at free throwing (as Allen writes below that makes no sense, but it is fact for now 8 years… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
February 21, 2021 8:25 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Made a mistake, they have 5 games remaining, 2 at home and 3 on the road. I forgot the UCLA game in Pauley.

rleeholder1
Noble Member
rleeholder1 (@rleeholder1)
February 22, 2021 6:52 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Mediocrity seems to be more contagious at SC than anything except COVID. Over the past half dozen years, the three major sports of football, basketball and baseball have all been mediocre. In my opinion, it’s because the head coaching is at best mediocre. I’m hoping the new Coach of SC Baseball can turn the program into what it once was under Dedeaux and Gillespie. Nonetheless, win or lose, we Fight On!

volunteerTrojan
Active Member
volunteerTrojan (@volunteertrojan)
February 22, 2021 7:14 am
Reply to  rleeholder1

Yes, and apparently in the form of sluggish first halves.

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
February 22, 2021 10:49 am
Reply to  rleeholder1

I agree if the University doesn’t care to hire top notch HC’s, then you figure they are not interested in winning championships outside the classroom. I do not support what Mike Bohn is doing in surrounding a hacker HC with a staff to do all his legwork. The image and what it represents is inviting recruits to look elsewhere, that they will not get the best coaching coming here. And that has been so true. All we can do, being the fanbase, is wonder why it has come to this. I mean, didn’t we always support USC sports, go to… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Jamaica
Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
Terrific Tommy (@terrific-tommy)
February 22, 2021 11:56 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

What blows my mind, currently they seem 100% focussed on cost-savings — yet we have an outstanding business school who should get marketing — and we are located in the second most populated region in America, blessed with outstanding weather. What don’t they get re: the cash that would be generated from a winning program/sold-out coliseum and all the benefits that come from an excited community? 🙄

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
February 22, 2021 4:31 pm
Reply to  Terrific Tommy

We all wonder the same thing. It’s like the administration now thinks revenue from sports is “dirty unworthy” money. Why would they want to forget-ignore what the football program was raking in during the 2000’s. Is it now politically incorrect to use our sports branding as an asset, that it is politically improper to consider Sports a department on the same level as the business-History-medicine-education-engineering, etc. departments as other highly accredited Universities do? Was Max Nikias that envious-jealous of the money football was bringing in compared to his fundraising? That kind of money can’t just be blown off as inconsequential… Read more »

uofsc93
Active Member
uofsc93 (@uofsc93)
February 21, 2021 8:58 am
Reply to  rleeholder1

It’s exhausting to hear over & over again how Enfield is a “free throw” expert & seeing clank after clank. Great article & that last sentence was on point.

Chris
Diamond Member
Chris (@chris)
February 21, 2021 9:52 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Free throws are more about repetition than technique. If you want to shoot a high percentage, then get a bunch of them up. My kid, who is clearly nowhere near the level of a D1 player, shoots close to 90%. It’s only because he shoots hundreds of them dang near every day. USC has multiple shooting guns, no excuse for poor free throws. Bottom should be 70%.

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