USC Basketball

Basketball Game Day Notes & Observations: USC vs Utah Edition

January 31, 2020

On a night when Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were to be honored at Galen, the place is being dressed up for the occasion and is taking on the feeling  of being a special night.  Both sections under each basket are being set up with a No.1 Fight On foam finger, and everyone in attendance who is not a part of the media will be given a commemorative t-shirt celebrating the lives of Kobe and Gianna.  

I love getting to the arena early.  It allows me to get set up...look around...just kind of relax and enjoy the pregame meal provided.  If you're interested?  Tonight they served Chicken Parmesan...plenty of time for seconds too!  After the belly is full, I'll walk down to the floor and start taking some pictures and say hello to friends and acquaintances.   A friend of mine who writes for a site called Motivated Purpose(check it out on twitter) is a just as big of a Kobe fan as I am, and I knew he was having a rough week was court side chatting it up with DJ Malski, and I stop to say hey.  We share our favorite Kobe stories.  

I also took the opportunity to tell the DJ that I was not the biggest fan of the concept, however, he's growing on me.  I’m a traditionalist, so when I see these “gimmicks” I’m always a “get off my lawn” type of guy until convinced otherwise.   Tonight DJ made a huge effort to get the fans on their feet and involved in the game...there is was even an attempt to get everyone...not just the student section, however, everyone, on their feet doing a poor mans version of Wisconsin's "jump around." ...Fight On for the effort.

** The team appears more focused than usual...Their drill lines are crisper than usual.  

**An hour till the tip off and the crowd is shuffling in for their free shirt...I'm told the student section line is wrapped back around The Lab at the USC Hotel.  By the way, did you know that's where Brandon Sosna is living right now?  Why?  "The commute takes away time from the job."    Wait till you hear who will be interning for AD, Sosna!  The guy is looking for a competitive advantage.  I like his young brash style.  Anyone who is willing to the UCLA Bruins is okay in my book.

**Pre-game serenade of TUSK by the Spirit of Troy with 35 minutes till the tip....UC...LA....SUCKS!!!!  Sorry, I got caught up in the chorus.

**Really nice to see Drake London out here running with the team again.  The young man is just wired differently he does everything hard...including drills.

**"Kobe Bryant On "Em"" by Sho Baraka Feat.   I grew up withThe Sugar Hill Gang, Whodini, Run DMC, and then slid into the 90's hip hop scene.  I have no idea who this artist is, however, yes!!!

**Student section is full they got their shirts!

**6:30 and the regular crowd is slow to shuffle in.

**Athletic Director Mike Bohn is working the room and he makes his way over to  DJ Malski...the two of them are doing their best to get the student section pumped up and ready.  There are things we can be critical of when it comes to AD, Bohn's decisions, however. his energy is real and he working to build some excitement within the students.  Hopefully it will rub off on the rest of the Trojan Family and they'll start coming to the games too.  The students are doing their parts.

**Right before the game they draw the north window curtains closed.  Maybe it has something to do with the Kobe & Gianna tribute?

**In memory of Kobe, there were 24.8 seconds of silence.  For a portion of the silence I had my eyes closed in thought, and then I opened them to see everyone standing and not a sound.  It gave me the chills.

**Even the Utah players are representing with the Kobe shirts


**And just like that...the curtains are drawn open again.


1st half

**Nick Rakocevic is getting pushed around early under the help from the officials either.  

** It wouldn't be Trojan basketball without cold shooting to start the game as USC starts off  0-4 from the field...Rakocevic with a little over 17 minutes to play gets the Trojans off the bagel/

**USC's man defense is stifling before the first media timeout...Utah already has 4 turnovers after 4 minutes of play , however, the Utes still lead 6-4.

**Nick's confidence is playing games with him...he's over passing in the lane.  Air balling lay ups and shooting 30% inside the paint will have that effect on ones psyche.

**With 13:19 on the clock, USC, is 2-11 from the field and they trail 12-4...Coach Enfield is giving it to the officials 

**The first 8 minutes and the Trojans are stumbling and bumbling over their own feet and are shooting just 2-12 from the field...the Utes are  shooting 5-10 and lead 14-4 with 11:53 to play in the half.

**The first team that starts to shoot straight will win.  With 7:07 to play in the half the Utes lead 16-11... The respective 31.3% to 22.2% shooting from the field....both teams are playing good defense however the Trojans are just missing wide open shots.

**With 3:43 left in the half the Trojans have cut the lead to 21-18 behind Rakocevic who is starting to assert himself in the paint after draining a three from the top of the arc.

**Just like that Utah knocks down back to back 3's and now lead 27-18 with 2:45 to play.  Coach Enfield and Coach Hart are giving Nick and Jonah Matthews an earful out of the timeout. Rakocevic leads the team with 12 points.

**After made FT's the Trojans like to come out with a 2-2-1 zone's effective if not annoying.    Trojans trail 29-23 at the half while shooting just 34.8% from the field.  Utah is not much better at 38.5%.  The difference in the game...Utah is shooting 5-10 from behind the arc...The Trojans are just 1-8. I'm wondering if Enfield used his loud voice again at the half, similar to the Stanford game?



**Jonah gets the Trojans going with a pair of FT;s

**It's getting Onyeka Okongwu is missing the shots around the basket inside.

**Enfield takes a seat on the bench after another missed shot...these are wide open looks.  This has nothing to do with coaching...and it's not for a lack of's just missed shots and is very frustrating.  I can hear Enfield's "sigh" from my seat.

**13:00 minutes to play and the Trojans trail by 9...Weaver drains a 3 and then forces a turnover

**DJ Malski tries to get a Duke Cameron Crazy thing going...USC fans are just apathetic or do not care.  Keep doing your thing, DJ!  Make the fans care and give the team a home court advantage.

**The Trojans are now 2-13 from behind the 3-point arc and the Trojans trail 40-34

**7:18 left in the game and the Trojans take their first lead of the night behind Weaver's drive to the basket.  Elijah joins Rakocevic in double digits...Rak with 12 points and Weaver now with 11.  Trojans lead 41-40 

**Nick with the hard drive to the basket and he's rewarded with the bucket as well as the AND-1...the Ute player who tried to take the charge took a shot and is slow to get up.  Rakocevic did not settle for the easy jumper and showed some aggressiveness.    Missed the FT.  Trojans lead 43-40 with 6:20 left

**Ethan Anderson looking like Max Williams playing defensive back with the transition interception steal saving a lay up attempt.

**3:46 to play and Okongwu picks up his 4th foul...the game is tied at 46 and Utah is at the line for a FT....they miss and the game is still tied at 46

**Matthews makes 2 FT's and the Trojans lead 48-46 with 3:30 to play

**With 1:02 left to play Utah takes a 52-50 lead after another missed 3 point attempt by theTrojans who are now just 4-17 from three point range.  Ironically it's the free throw shooting getting the job done..

**Jonah at the line for 1 and 1 trailing by 2...he makes both and the game is tied at 52 with 55 seconds to play

**Nick with his patened tip in with less than 30 seconds to play in the game and the Trojans lead 54-52 with 15.7 left to play.  Utah ball.

**DJ Malski trying to teach the fans how to be loud.  KUDOS to him. Just like that, Big O, ties up Utah Ute Timmie Allen on the drive with the blocked shot...the arrow points to the Trojans.  They Trojans just need to get the ball inbounds and make their FT's and leave with the win, setting up a huge showdown with Colorado on Saturday night.  

**With 5.2seconds left the Trojans get ball inbound to BIG O who cradles the ball and is sent to the free throw line for the 1 AND 1...if he makes both the game is over.  Make 1 and the Utes have a chance for a game tying 3.  First one is good and the Utes have no more TO's both are good game over!!! Trojans win 56-52 final.

If the Trojans play with this kind of defensive effort, eventually their offense will catch up and this special team will be a team no one wants to play come tournament time.  On a night when the Trojan shooters couldn’t hit water from a boat in the middle of the ocean, the defense rose to the occasion holding the Utes to just 23 2nd half points, and the Trojans made their free throws down the stretch.  

It's no secret, Andy Enfield and Colorado Buffalo coach Tad Boyle have a history so the game Saturday nightshould have some added intensity...if battling a top-20 Buffalo team wasn't enough, 1st place will also be on the line...along with another resume' builder. 

I think Kobe would have enoyed this win.


Tags: Basketball, USC, Utah
Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.