Trojans’ defensive front leads to opening game win

LOS ANGELES, CA-The USC Trojans men’s basketball team woke up in the second half of its first home game of the season to record a double-digit victory against visiting Robert Morris University. The Trojans’ 83-62 win at the Galen Center was much about their defense than anything else, particularly in the second half.

For the game, Robert Morris made just 24 of 70 field goals from the field for a 34 percent clip. During the last 20 minutes, which saw USC pull away from the Colonials, Robert Morris connected on just 10 of the 37 shots it attempted from the field.

college basketball game between USC and Robert Morris
USC center Nick Rakocevic (31) looks on as Robert Morris Cameron Wilbon (22) snatches a rebound during the Trojans’ 83-62 win against the Colonials on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

But when you look at the numbers when it comes to perimeter play, Robert Morris shot an abysmal 5 of 30 from behind the three-point line. That’s only 16 percent shooting. Good for the Trojans. Bad for the Colonials. The Colonials’ bad shooting night can be attributed to the way the Trojans smothered the perimeter and found ways to keep the inside game to become non-existent.

For the first half, and probably the first eight minutes of the second half, Robert Morris stuck around close to the Trojans, looking for the upset. USC only held a 37-35 lead at intermission, thus providing a bit of drama going into the last session of play.

college basketball game between USC and Robert Morris
Robert Morris forward Koby Thomas (10) gets this shot off against the defense of USC guard Derryck Thorton (5) during the Trojans’ 83-62 win against the Colonials on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

So for the first 30 minutes of action, USC and Robert Morris played teeter-totter game, going back and forth, trading baskets. But the inside play of the Trojans’ big men eventually wore down the Colonials. USC had a much better outcome than Robert Morris when it came to field goal shooting, and that proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

USC players made 52 percent of their shots from the field (30 of 57). The Trojans were on fire in the second half, converting 60 percent of their shots (17 of 28). Most of those field goals came in the low post. The Trojans scored 38 of their points in the paint. They can thank Shaqquan Aaron and Nick Rakocevic for their contributions.

college basketball game
USC center Nick Rakocevic (31) attempts to block this shot by Malik Petteway (5) during the Trojans’ 83-62 win against Robert Morris on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

After being relatively quiet in the first half, Aaron asserted himself more in the second period to lead the Trojans in scoring with a game-high 20 points. Rakocevic produced a monster game with his 18 points and 16 rebounds against a smaller Robert Morris team. The Trojans wound up with four players scoring in double-digits.

Besides Aaron and Rakocevic doing their thing, Jonah Mathews scored 15 points and added six rebounds. Kevin Porter Jr. dropped in an additional 15 points and five rebounds. The Trojans outrebounded the Colonials by 11, holding a 42-31 advantage. Thirty-four of those rebounds came on the defensive end thanks to the Colonials’ rough shooting night.

This was an unusually tough match for the Trojans as Robert Morris would not go away until Aaron and Rakocevic stepped up their play towards the end of the game. USC outscored Robert Morris 46-27 in the second half to secure its first win of the season.

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