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The Galen Center on USC’s campus, home to Trojan basketball and volleyball (both men’s and women’s) since 2006. Photo courtesy of connorsports.com

 

OUR RESIDENT TROJAN, PAUL SALERNO, RETURNS WITH HIS TAKE ON HIS ALMA MATER’S STATELY ARENA AND WHAT A USC BASKETBALL GAME IS LIKE THERE WHEN HE ATTENDED THE TROJANS’ GAME vs ARIZONA STATE ON JANUARY 22nd.

 

By Paul Salerno

Sunday night’s win was as stressful as they come, but USC came out victorious.

USC basketball is on its way up and its fan base is coming back again. While the Trojans on the hard court may never be as vital to the Trojan blood as its football program, its enthusiasm has grown immensely.

When I went to USC just a few years back, our basketball team was a joke and no one seemed to even care about it. I only made it out to a few games during my four years as a student and even those were underwhelming.

While the Galen Center was underwhelming on Sunday, there were notably more people than before. Just a few years ago the school was practically bribing students to go to games. There was always a “we’re giving away free T-shirts” kind of deal and they would even pass around free pizza in the student section. I remember them giving away shorts, bags, mugs, water bottles, and with those “bribes” people were still not interested in going.

The reason was a simple one: Our team wasn’t very good, wasn’t going to make the (NCAA) tournament, and felt like going to a high school basketball game in a really nice venue. Andy Enfield was hired at the end of my sophomore year, but we still had a losing record for the remainder of my time there.

 

Highlights of USC’s 82-79 win over Arizona State, which our young Trojan correspondent observed. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Even today, there isn’t much of a culture to USC basketball. For football, the school practically shuts down, there is tailgating and people make a day out of the game.

For basketball, it’s a much casual laid back vibe. People go, they root for their team, but it’s not the heartbeat of the school. With football, USC fans anticipate the game throughout the week and the emotions are charged with a win or a loss reflecting the mood of Trojans on campus and elsewhere.

With basketball it is still a “take it or leave it” kind of thing. However, with the improvement of the program this may change soon (Editor’s Note: An obvious example of this culture change in USC hoops was seen in the Trojans’ win over UCLA on January 25th in front of a sold-out Galen Center).

Andy Enfield was hired in 2013 after taking Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet Sixteen in that year’s NCAA Tournament. His hire was semi-controversial, but most seem up for taking the risk on him.

During his first year USC’s record was 11-21 and his second year it was 12-20.

Now the Trojans are 18-4. USC’s basketball support is growing and if the team can keep improving then this program will have a significant part of the Trojan life.

 

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McLaughlin going for a lay-up against the Sun Devils. Photo courtesy of pac12.com

 

Now to the game…

USC has been known to have some shooting issues recently, but that was not the case on Sunday as the Trojans went 14-for-27 from the three-point line, Elijah Stewart having seven of those three pointers and ending the night with 29 points.

However, Jordan McLaughlin had the most impressive basket of the night, banking a near half court shot at the buzzer of the first half. The crowd roared as McLaughlin looked as if he wasn’t sure what the big deal was.

The Trojans continued shooting into the second half until about the final three minutes. Arizona State then went on a 12-1 rally, putting the game to within three points, but fortunately when it came down to the final play the Sun Devils were unable to succeed and USC pulled away with an 82-79 win.

As was stated, the future looks bright for this program as they are currently 18-4 and have played with Bennie Boatwright, their best player, for most of the season. Boatwright has started to work out a bit during practice, but is still limited and hasn’t been cleared yet.

 

Hard evidence of USC’s current rise in basketball: Highlights of their big 84-76 win over UCLA on January 25th. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

He was not able to play vs UCLA, but may come back as early as USC’s game at Washington on February 1st.

USC vs UCLA certainly brought out some excitement and was a HUGE win for the Trojans as traditionally, ‘SC has been known as a great football school while UCLA has been known for its historic basketball program.

But the USC program is getting better and better each year as Enfield has turned this team around, making them exciting to watch.

If this team can keep winning, the support will come and it is already starting to come as from the mostly empty stands during games, filled with mostly the student section and the marching band, to where it is ow is a vast improvement.

18-4…Not bad at all.

USC Basketball is a force to be reckoned with and I’m excited to see where it goes from here; I am pleased by the trajectory we are on.

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USC guard Jordan McLaughlin pushing the ball up the court during the Trojans’ win over Arizona State. Photo courtesy of btvnews.com

 

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