USC rallies to beat Cal State Bakersfield, 63-59

If atmosphere counts, if having fans in seats, fans who make noise, who clap or boo or even just go buy a hot dog, if any of that matters, then USC had no chance Sunday at Galen Center against Cal State Bakersfield.

But if it is the team that should provide the atmosphere, if it is the team that is supposed to make the fans clap or boo or stand and shout, then USC also should have had no chance against Bakersfield.


The Trojans, coming off their two best victories of the season, against Xavier and Boston College, played with the energy of Santa Claus after he traveled around the world and dropped off his last gift. In other words, not much.

Still, USC, with the help of a closing 13-3 run, managed to sneak past Bakersfield, 63-59, to improve to 6-0 at home.

But if there was a loose ball, for most of the game, you can be sure the Trojans stopped and stared at it.

If there was a rebound caroming off the backboard, you can be sure the Trojans (7-3) stayed stuck to the ground. An open three-pointer? Clang, off the rim. A fast-break dunk? Missed so badly by freshman Julian Jacobs he started walking to the bench before he was pulled.

Jacobs' teammate, Byron Wesley, who had a game-high 20 points, mostly by making 12 of 14 free throws, said, "Julian may never be allowed to dunk again," showing, at least, the Trojans could still have a little humor after a disappointing performance.

If it's possible to have a holiday hangover before the holiday, USC had it against Bakersfield (5-6).

After two solid victories, the Trojans took a step back against the Roadrunners, who had played 176 games as an independent beginning in 2007-08 when they went NCAA Division I. This season, they will play in the Western Athletic Conference.

"It was a tough game," USC Coach Andy Enfield said. "Bakersfield played an excellent game. We did not. They had a lot to do with that but we have a lot of freshmen and freshmen make mistakes.

"But our guys showed a lot of heart down the stretch."

Enfield, like Wesley, wasn't thrilled with Jacobs' extravagantly missed dunk. It came with 8 minutes 7 seconds left and the Trojans trailing, 51-46.

"Typical overconfident freshman," Enfield said. "We're down five, make a steal, he's a terrific athlete, but a one-handed tomahawk is not the smartest thing."

A 10-0 second-half Bakersfield run began with a three-pointer by Issiah Grayson with 17:27 left and was punctuated by a slam dunk by Abdul Ahmed that gave the Roadrunners a 42-36 lead.

"If there was a loose ball during that streak, we went for it with one hand, they went with two," Enfield said.

The Trojans were saved at the free-throw line, making seven of eight in the final 21/2 minutes.


"No excuses," said Wesley, who scored only one point in the first half. "We weren't playing hard from the start."

Twitter: @mepucin