Ethan Anderson fell to the floor with Temple’s Josh Pierre-Louis not too far behind. The guards rolled over near midcourt, wrestling for the ball. Pierre-Louis stole it in the scrum and shoveled it toward his teammate Monty Scott. A second later, Quinton Rose was slamming it through the rim with two hands.
The team that ranks second in the country in steals had just stolen USC’s perfect record.
Temple (4-0) used second-half surge to hand USC its first loss of the year, winning 70-61 at Galen Center on Friday. Despite a size advantage, the Trojans (5-1) were outrebounded 42-38, turned the ball over 13 times that led to 21 Temple points and missed nine free throws.
“We just didn’t have it,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We weren’t sharp tonight unfortunately in a lot of areas.”
Freshman Onyeka Okongwu led the Trojans with 17 points, six rebounds and five blocks. He scored 12 points in the second half as USC took a seven-point lead at the 17:10 mark.
The Owls responded with a 22-4 run that included 13 unanswered points. The six-minute USC scoring drought felt like forever, Enfield said. Rose’s transition dunk gave the Owls an 11-point lead with 9:32 remaining.
“I’ll take the blame for it because I couldn’t figure out what to do as far as getting us out of that rut,” Enfield said. “We were trying different things and whatever we tried didn’t seem to work.”
The seven-year coach called different plays searching for offense during the lull but was met with point-blank misses and turnovers. It was especially disappointing because some mistakes were from the team’s upperclassmen, he noted.
USC entered the game with 14.6 offensive rebounds a game, which ranked second in the Pac-12, but had only six against Temple. The 6-foot-10 Justyn Hamilton is Temple’s only player taller than 6-foot-9 who played more than 10 minutes.
“We have too much size and athleticism on our team to only have six offensive rebounds,” Enfield lamented.
Senior forward Nick Rakocevic, who had three straight double-double performances, was held to just six points and six rebounds. He added three assists and a team-high three steals, but missed five of six free throws.
The Trojans missed seven free throws in the first half and needed an 8-2 run to pull within one at halftime. They didn’t take their first lead until less than 30 seconds left in the first half and then gave it up at the buzzer on an acrobatic up-and-under layup from Pierre-Louis, who also added two key three-pointers in the first half.
Temple made 10 of 30 three-point attempts while USC went six for 22. Guards Quinton Adlesh and Daniel Utomi, two key grad transfers USC added specifically for shooting, were a combined one for six from three-point range.