It's no secret that USC Coach George Raveling does not like to play tough early-season opponents. Now we know why.
In its regular-season opener Saturday afternoon, USC was outplayed by a more experienced Pennsylvania team, 77-62, before a Sports Arena crowd of 3,461.
Penn, which had five starters back from last season's Ivy League championship team, taught the Trojans a lesson in teamwork and handed USC its worst loss at the Sports Arena in three years and its first home-opening loss since 1988.
"It's not often that you play a team with that much experience in your first game," said USC forward Lorenzo Orr, who finished with a game-high 20 points. "Hopefully, we'll be able to chalk this one up for experience down the road."
With two new starters and four freshmen playing their first college game, USC was no match for the Quakers, who finished undefeated in Ivy League play and 22-5 last season.
Junior guards Matt Maloney and Jerome Allen led Penn with 19 and 16 points, respectively, as the Quakers opened a 19-point lead early in the second half and never looked back.
"This was a game that I suspect that experience and confidence played an immense role," Raveling said. "Penn tested us in every facet of the game. They tested our mental patience, our work habits and our shot selection. This was like an admissions test to get into an Ivy League school, and we flunked it."
In the first half, USC kept the score close on 13 points by senior forward Mark Boyd. The Trojans even took a three-point lead late in the half on four consecutive points by Boyd.
But Penn outscored the Trojans, 29-7, from the last two minutes of the first half through the first five minutes of the second.
During that stretch, Allen scored 12 points as the Trojans struggled to get the ball inside to Orr.
"I felt that I had to step up my overall play because I'm one of the older veterans on the team," said Allen, voted the Ivy League's most valuable player last season. "I tried to increase my intensity and looked for my shot more."
Trailing, 59-40, USC rallied on five points by Orr to cut the lead to 10 points, but was never able to get any closer.
"They really took advantage of our mistakes," said USC point guard Burt Harris, who finished with a career-high 13 points. "They hit their shots down the stretch when they had to, even the tough ones. That's when they really showed their experience."
Despite its height advantage, USC was outrebounded, 36-28, by Penn, which did not start a player taller than 6 feet 7. The Trojans also made only five of 10 second-half free throws.
"I saw some good things and bad things," said Raveling, who is 5-3 in season openers at USC. "There weren't enough bad things to make me think we overestimated this team, though. Obviously, we're not a cohesive unit. We're still trying to identify ourselves."
USC's four touted freshmen, Stais Boseman, Claude Green, Avondre Jones and Jaha Wilson, played well in spots, but also made several key mistakes.
Boseman started and led the freshmen with six points, while Green added five and Jones three as reserves. Wilson went scoreless in 10 minutes.
"I think that we (the four freshmen) were ready to play, but their experience was too much for us," said Jones, who had two rebounds and two blocks in 10 minutes. "It'd be nice if we could face them later in the season."
For now, the Trojans must regroup and get ready for Tuesday night, when they will play host to Loyola Marymount.