Southern California can add to its winning streak and build momentum with a crucial stretch of games on the horizon as the Trojans host Long Beach State on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Yet, the Trojans can expect a challenge from the visiting Beach and its up-tempo style.
USC (7-3) will begin a potentially season-defining run of five games on Sunday when it hosts No. 19 Auburn, faces Colorado State in Phoenix on Dec. 21, then returns to Pac-12 Conference play with three road games Dec. 30-Jan. 5.
Before that set of games, the Trojans will aim for their fourth straight win. In their most recent game, they held Cal State Fullerton to 19-of-58 shooting from the floor and generated 17 turnovers in a 64-50 win on Dec. 7.
On Nov. 24, USC played then-No. 22 Tennessee tough before falling in overtime 73-66.
“You’re not going to play perfect but our players play hard. They know where to be defensively,” USC coach Andy Enfield said following the win over Fullerton, a Big West Conference partner of Long Beach State (4-5). “Our defense has not been our issue. We held Tennessee to 62 (in regulation), Tennessee scored 25 points in the second half, (and it is) a top five team in the country. So someone’s got to step up and score the ball for us in close games.”
OK, so the Vols are actually, No. 6, but his point remains valid.
The Trojans rank among Division I’s best in a variety of defensive metrics. Joshua Morgan, a 6-foot-11 Long Beach State transfer, has been central to that effort with an average of 3.3 blocked shots.
Kobe Johnson and Boogie Ellis enter Wednesday’s contest averaging 2.1 and 1.4 steals. However, only Ellis (14.4 points per game) and backcourt mate Drew Peterson (13.8) are averaging in double-figures scoring for the Trojans as they search for their offensive identity as a team.
Long Beach State, meanwhile, brings an up-tempo style of offensive basketball to USC’s Galen Center. The Beach’s 14.8-second average possession time is the sixth-fastest in Division I, per KenPom.com metrics.
However, shooting 29.5 percent from 3-point range and committing almost 14 turnovers per game has impeded the Long Beach State offense’s overall production.
Joel Murray leads the Beach in scoring at 14.4 points per game. He scored a team-high 21 in a 76-74 loss at Sacramento State on Saturday.
–Field Level Media