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USC forward Bennie Boatwright (#25) and his teammates looking on while the Trojans were in the midst of demolishing UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament on March 9th. Photo courtesy of Pac-12.com

OUR LOOK AT USC BASKETBALL’S RESURGENCE THIS SEASON

 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS BASKETBALL

Record: 21-13 overall, 9-9 and tied for sixth place in the Pac-12 Conference

Highlights:

*  Beat UCLA three times in a season for the first time since 1954 – 62 years – including a crushing 95-71 win over the Bruins in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

*  Upset then seventh-ranked Arizona 103-101 at Galen Center on January 9th at Galen Center, in a game that went four overtimes!

*  Won at least 20 games in a season for the first time since 2009.

*  Earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, as an 8th seed in the East Region.

Lowlights (there was really one true low light):

*  Lost to 9th-seeded Providence in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on a last-second shot, 70-69, on March 17th

Team Leaders:

Jordan McLaughlin (our choice for team MVP), G – 13.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Nikola Jovanovic, F – 12.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg

Julian Jacobs, G – 11.6 ppg, 4.9 apg

Bennie Boatwright, F – 11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg

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Trojan guard – and the team’s leading scorer – Jordan McLaughlin driving on an Arizona player in ‘SC’s instant classic, four-overtime win on January 9th. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

Our choice for USC Basketball’s #1 highlight of 2015-16: The four-overtime classic vs. Arizona, won by the Trojans 103-101

 

When it comes to a college basketball program’s resurgence, these Trojans from just south of downtown Los Angeles deserve all the credit in the world.

We’re talking about a team that had finished in the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference two seasons running before this year.

We’re talking about a team that hadn’t had a winning record or been the NCAA Tournament in five years.

And we’re talking about a team that hadn’t won 20 games in a season in seven years.

All that changed this season as coach Andy Enfield’s third season at the helm was marked by a rise of Troy, the maturity and athleticism of key players such as Nikola Jovanovic, Julian Jacobs and Jordan McLaughlin being a key factor in USC turning their hoops fortunes around.

This Trojan turn-around was best illustrated in their three games against crosstown rival and college basketball blue blood UCLA, ‘SC beating the Bruins all three times they faced them, all by comfortable margins as the closest UCLA came to the Trojans was 14 points.

The most prevalent characterization of how far USC has come as a program – and how far they have to go – manifested itself in their first go-around in the “Big Dance” since 2011.

The 8th-seeded Trojans performed quite well against Providence’s Friars, displaying their “Fight On!” attitude all game long and heading for a near-certain win when after some missed free throws and rebounds down the stretch, Providence shattered the hearts of the Trojan Family when their last second basket sent ‘SC down to a devastating one-and-done loss.

Those Trojans were visibly upset, and rightfully so due to defeat being taken from the jaws of victory.

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USC guard Katin Reinhardt going for a jump shot against Colorado at Galen Center on February 17th. Photo courtesy of FoxSports.com

 

But in all honesty…

If there is any team that needs to keep their heads up due to their extremely bright future, it’s this USC squad as barring any defections to the NBA – and I really don’t think that’s likely,

This is a team that is expected to be wicked scary next year as they will be among the favorites in the Pac-12, if not the favorite.

This Trojan squad will be the epitome of a “team that will learn from their heartbreaking loss” and use that 70-69 setback to Providence as motivation to come back 100 times stronger.

Not to mention with a determination, a purpose, and the intention to take the next step, become a west coast power, and go far beyond the first round in the NCAA tourney.

That will be the expectation of USC basketball and the Trojan community in general as Galen Center figures to draw a lot more fans than that state-of-the-art arena has been drawing in the ten years since it was built.

One thing is for certain about this cardinal-and-gold bunch…

This is a very good USC Trojan basketball team.

And they will only get better.

 

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The man behind the Trojans’ rise in basketball: Coach Andy Enfield. Photo courtesy of LASportsHub.com

 

 

 

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