USC basketball: Trojans are trampled by Rider, 77-57
Into the Galen Center rode the Rider Broncs on Wednesday, and there they provided USC a thorough lesson on how to shoot well from almost every strip of hardwood on Jim Sterkel Court.
USC, in exchange for this tutelage, showed Rider how to build a brick house.
The Broncs bucked the Trojans, 77-57, to deny USC its first 3-0 start since the 2000-01 season.
And they did it by shooting 12 of 19 from three-point range, 11 of 15 from the free-throw line and 27 of 45 (60%) overall.
The Trojans, meanwhile, shot 23 for 61 (37.7%), which included a dreadful one for 15 from beyond the arc. They also shot just 10 for 20 at the free-throw line.
USC trailed, 17-8, early but fought back to tie the game at 21 with 5:39 left before halftime on a three-point jumper by senior guard Donte Smith.
But after that shot, the Broncs went on a 15-6 run to end the half in which they shot 60% overall, and then came out of the locker room with still-sizzling hands as evidenced by their 12-3 post-intermission run that put the Trojans down 48-30.
Some fans started filing out when Rider’s lead reached 20 with 8:16 to go.
It was a bad omen for USC that its first shot of the game -- a three-point shot by freshman guard Bryce Jones –- bounced off the side of the backboard.
It was worse when one of its best performances -– behind that of freshman point guard Maurice Jones (13 points, three assists) –- came from senior forward Alex Stepheson, who scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds with a cast on his fractured left hand.
Bryce Jones, however, didn’t improve off his first shot, finishing two for 13 for five points.
In stark contrast, London native Justin Robinson, who played on Great Britain's national team this summer, led Rider with a career-high 28 points on nine-of-10 shooting, including making all five of his three-point shots and all five free-throw attempts.
The loss surely reminded some USC fans of the Trojans’ well-documented offensive troubles last season, when their scoring offense (59.6) ranked last in the Pacific 10 Conference.
To USC’s credit, the team is in the midst of an eight-games-in-17-days stretch and its starters have played almost every minute of the Trojans’ first three games.
But USC didn’t seem fatigued so much as showing its youth.
The Broncs boast six upperclassmen and return four starters from a team that finished 16-15 last season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Trojans lost three starters and are starting two 18-year-olds at the guard positions.
In all, in what is considered a getaway game -– the final game before a road trip -– the Trojans' game against Rider got away from them shortly after tipoff.
They can think about that on their trip to Springfield, Mass., where USC plays Bradley on Saturday and New Mexico State on Sunday as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.
-- Baxter Holmes