“You could just see it on their faces,” Enfield said.
USC kept shooting. USC kept missing. In a flurry of clanging iron and Texas A&M swishes, the biggest game of the young season was slipping away from the Trojans.
“It just deflates you,” Enfield said, moments after No. 16 Texas A&M ran away with a 75-59 victory over No. 10 USC.
Over the long offseason and through its first four games, USC has knocked on the door of the nation’s elite teams for the first time in a very long time. Texas A&M delivered a stiff reality check in a game in which one team looked like one of the nation’s best and one did not.
The Aggies, who have won all their games by at least 11 points, despite facing foes such as West Virginia, Oklahoma State and USC, led for all but four minutes. But USC (4-1) was undone just as much by its own bricks.
The Trojans, who trailed by seven points at halftime, stormed back at the start of the second half. Six minutes in, Chimezie Metu dunked in transition. The score was tied. USC managed only 17 points over the game’s remaining 14 minutes.
Texas A&M made and made again — seven of 11 in the next six-minute stretch. USC’s shots clanged and clanged again — one of nine in the span.
After seven straight USC misses — and two turnovers to boot — Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks hit a midrange jumper. USC trailed by nine. Enfield called a timeout. It helped little. Starks, now on a heat-check, pulled up midrange again. He made it, then made another. D.J. Hogg added a three-pointer, turned to his bench and popped his jersey.
Two more USC misses later, Texas A&M led by 16. It was a 19-3 run.
“They kept hitting shots, and we didn’t,” point guard Jordan McLaughlin said.
Informed of Enfield’s disappointment in USC’s reaction during the run, McLaughlin did not protest.
“It kind of was a little bit deflating,” he said.
USC shot only 28% from the field for the game, its worst mark since 2015. The team made seven of 27 three-point attempts.
Hogg led all scorers with 15 points. Four USC players finished in double figures. Metu led USC with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Guard De’Anthony Melton, the main reason USC defeated Texas A&M on the road last season, was not in uniform again on Sunday. He has not played yet this season as USC continues to investigate his eligibility.
The game stood as the most consequential on USC’s nonconference schedule, one that could look nice written on an NCAA tournament resume during selection time. It was a November atmosphere rarely experienced at USC, mostly because it was a matchup rarely seen.
Only one other time, in 2007, has a ranked USC team played a ranked opponent at Galen Center. There were 5,347 in attendance, including the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, who played at Texas A&M; the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma; and Trojans football coach Clay Helton.
The Aggies, built around their dynamic frontcourt, leaned on center Tyler Davis early. He finished with 10 points.
Forward Robert Williams found little space offensively against USC forward Bennie Boatwright. Williams managed just four points. But he shut Boatwright down, too.
Boatwright scored 10 points — all in the first half.
In the first half, he didn’t make any of his seven field-goal attempts. Elijah Stewart made one of seven in the period.
Only an outburst from reserve forward Nick Rakocevic allowed USC to weather their early misses. Rakocevic owned the boards, with six rebounds in just 12 minutes. He cleaned up his teammates’ missed baskets for 11 first-half points of his own, many on put-backs.
Then he, too, went scoreless in the second half.
Without a perimeter game, USC could muster little offensively. Williams and Davis clogged the inside, pestering USC with their length.
“I was telling the guys, keep shooting it,” McLaughlin said.
The Trojans listened. They just couldn’t make.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand