LOS ANGELES – USC Trojans Men’s basketball team suffered its first defeat of the season to the Temple Owls 70-61, Friday night at the Galen Center.
“That was a tough game for us tonight. We didn’t play well offensively,” said Andy Enfield. “We made a lot of mistakes. We missed some shots. Give Temple credit. They played a hard, physical game but we just didn’t get it done offensively tonight.”
That is an accurate statement as the Trojans shot it at a 38 percent clip, including only making six-of- 22 from the land of threes. It could have been much worse if not for the performance of freshman sensation Onyeka “Big O” Okongwu, who led the way for the Trojans with 17 points on 6-of-13 from the field with six boards and five blocks. Big O has had at least one block in every game this season.
Pac-12 player of the week Nick Rakocevic struggled in this game, only making 2-of-7. However, one of those makes by Rakocevic was his first career three pointer.
It was the perimeter players who really built a foundation with their bricks. This was especially true for senior guard Jonah Mathews, who missed eight of his 10 shots.
“We’re in the gym every day,” said Mathews. “They just haven’t started falling yet but we’re going to keep them coming.”
For Temple, they did keep coming and at a rapid pace, particularly during one stage early in the second half when they blitzed the Trojans with a 19-2 run that turned the game on its head.
Three runs can characterize this game. The first found the Trojans down 25-16 just inside the six-minute mark of the first half but closed strong under leadership of freshman Ethan Anderson, who scored four points to jump start a 14-6 run to close the first half; he had 12 points and five assists.
Temple guard Josh Pierre-Louis had 13 points in first half on 5-8 shooting, including 2-of-4 from long range.
“His contribution was big,” said Temple head coach and former Laker Aaron McKie about his reserve player. “I wasn’t anticipating Josh coming in like he did the first half and was making shots but it happened for us at a good time and he kept us in it until our veteran guys were able to get their footing. I think we took control of that game midway through the second half.”
Down by one out of the locker room, the Trojans torch stayed lit from how they closed the first half as they opened the second half on a 10-3, to go up 40-34 on the visitors. This was the last good thing that happened for the Trojans in the game.
“We played the first 4 or 5 minutes of the second half, and then we turned the ball over and missed shots,” said Enfield.
Temple scored 13 straight points while the Trojans could not splash the net in a six-minute span. Big O made layup to stop the bleeding, temporarily, but six more in a row put Temple up 53-42 and the Trojans could not get back in a groove.
The Trojans fall to 5-1 on the season as they head to Orlando for a three-game ESPN Invitational Tournament next week.