There were missed dunks and layups that led to points, forced passes that went awry, poor defensive rotations that resulted in open baskets. There was head coach Andy Enfield either strutting back and forth on the sideline or leaning back in his chair and hugging his leg in exasperation. And there was the heckling by USC’s own marching band and a fan who yelled, “Kliff Kingsbury” after one of the Trojans’ 20 turnovers, as if the new offensive coordinator is the only positive thing the athletic department has right now.
It just might be, after the men’s basketball team suffered its worst defeat in the Enfield era, falling 96-61 to TCU at the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center on Friday to drop to 5-4 on the season. Not even in Enfield’s early rebuilding seasons since he took over in 2013 has USC lost by 35 points in a game—much less on national television on an NBA court.
“We played as poorly as we could,” Enfield said. “I’ll take the blame for that. I did not see this coming. It’s on me as a head coach to figure this out.”
The blowout felt prescient from the start as TCU jumped out to a 10-2 lead and then ended the first half on a 16-2 run and a 20-point advantage. As the first half buzzer sounded, TCU’s Jaylen Fisher—who finished with 15 points—dropped in a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner, prompting an expletive from the USC bench as he shot the ball.
“We have to figure out how to stop the other team’s runs,” Enfield said. “TCU played well. When they do, we have to figure out how to stop that.”
USC, which entered the game averaging 48.5 percent shooting on the season, finished at 31.6 percent on Friday on 18-of-57 shooting. Without freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr., who was out with a quad contusion, the Trojans’ offense looked nothing like the fast-paced, efficient system Enfield likes to run. They didn’t move the ball, didn’t value possessions and made head-scratching mistakes for a team expected to compete for a conference title.
“We made it hard for them to use ball screens, which is a big part of their offense,” said TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.
The Trojans’ assist-to-turnover ratio was almost laughably bad: 11 assists compared to 20 turnovers.
“You just can’t win games like that,” Enfield said. “It’s not even going to be close. We have to do a better job, making right decisions and the right plays.”
According to Enfield, the offensive struggles affected the defense. He pointed to one sequence in the first half, when redshirt senior guard Shaqquan Aaron blew a wide-open fastbreak dunk with USC trailing by 6. Instead of a 4-point deficit, a TCU 3-pointer on the other end made it a 5-point swing.
Enfield was critical of how his players lingered on missed shots and didn’t communicate on defense. TCU scored 27 points off turnovers compared to USC’s 6.
“It’s a sign of maturity and a sign of toughness,” Enfield said.
Senior forward Bennie Boatwright led USC with 14 points, while freshman guard Elijah Weaver had 10 points off the bench. Junior forward Nick Rakocevic struggled through a 2-of-9 shooting night for 13 points. And the three starting guards—Aaron, junior guard Jonah Mathews and redshirt junior guard Derryck Thornton—finished at 6-of-22 shooting.
Enfield was repeatedly apologetic for his team’s efforts, taking the blame, promising to work in practice and claiming that as bad as the players were, the coaches were worse. He said he has to do a better job of making substitutions and running different sets to spark the offense.
Enfield and the team will have a week to figure it out, and their next test won’t be easy either, facing a 7-1 Oklahoma team in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But it won’t take too much effort to top Friday night’s embarrassment.
“Tonight,” Enfield said, “the wheels fell off.”
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