USC can’t keep up with Rider in 77-57 loss
Into the Galen Center stormed the Rider Broncs on Wednesday, and there they provided USC a thorough lesson on how to shoot well from almost every strip of hardwood on Jim Sterkel Court.
USC, in exchange for this tutelage, showed Rider how to build a brick house.
The Broncs beat the Trojans, 77-57, to deny USC its first 3-0 start since the 2000-01 season.
And they did it by making 12 of 19 three-point shots (63.2%, a Galen Center opponent record), 11 of 15 free throws and 27 of 45 shots from the field.
Rider’s 60% field-goal percentage set an opponent record at Galen Center.
“In my two years, that’s the worst we’ve been defensively,” Coach Kevin O’Neill said.
The Trojans missed all but one of their 15 three-point shots, and made only 23 of 61 shots (37.7%). They made 10 of 20 free throws.
“We knew they were going to play zone,” said senior forward Alex Stepheson. “We just didn’t execute well against it.”
USC trailed early but tied the score, 21-21, with 5 minutes 39 seconds left in the first half.
But the Broncs responded with a 15-6 run to end the half, and came out of the locker room with still-hot hands that sparked a 12-3 run to put USC down, 48-30.
Some fans started filing out when Rider’s lead reached 20 points with 8:16 to go.
It was a bad omen for USC that its first shot of the game, a three-point try by freshman guard Bryce Jones, bounced off the side of the backboard.
It got worse when one of its best performances, next to freshman point guard Maurice Jones (13 points, three assists), came from Stepheson, who had nine points and six rebounds with a cast on his fractured left hand.
Justin Robinson led Rider with a career-high 28 points on nine-for-10 shooting. He made his five three-point shots and his five free throws.
The loss surely reminded some USC fans of the Trojans’ offensive troubles last season, when they ranked last in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring at 59.6 points per game.
To USC’s credit, the team is in the midst of a stretch of eight games in 17 days and some starters, such as Maurice Jones, have played nearly every minute of the first three games.
“That’s no excuse,” said senior guard Donte Smith, who scored a career-high 13 points.
USC, which lost three starters and are starting two 18-year-old guards, showed its youth Wednesday.
“We didn’t play together,” O’Neill said. “We split apart when things got a little bit tough.”
The game got away from the Trojans shortly after tipoff.
“It looked like we were in chill-out mode,” O’Neill said, “and we can’t be in chill-out mode against anybody.”
The Trojans can think about that on their trip to Springfield, Mass., where they’ll plays Bradley on Saturday and New Mexico State on Sunday as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.