Cold shooting and turnovers doom USC in stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast
A decade ago, when “Dunk City” first captivated the nation, its blistering pace and high-flying style turned Florida Gulf Coast into a March marvel — and, in the process, convinced USC of a bright future with Andy Enfield as its coach.
Nine seasons at USC would mean plenty of changes to that blueprint. But with his Trojans frontcourt now depleted of the star 7-footers, Enfield had designs on returning to those roots in his 10th, spreading the floor with four guards, picking up the pace and firing away from deep, not all that unlike what Dunk City had done all those years ago.
It took all of one November night for those plans to be derailed — done in by the original Dunk City itself in a disastrous season-opening defeat, 74-61, to Florida Gulf Coast at Galen Center.
“I thought we were prepared to play tonight, but it didn’t look like it,” Enfield said. “That’s on me.”
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It would be difficult to imagine a more disturbing debut for USC, which opened the previous season on a 13-0 tear, beating opponents by an average margin of 15 points before its first serious sniff of adversity in January.
This season, adversity came swinging soon after the opening tip of USC’s opening game. After an eight-for-12 start from the field set the Trojans on what seemed like a smooth path to victory, they were absolutely trampled on the offensive end, outdone on the glass, 46-35, and generally outworked by Enfield’s former team.
At one point, USC went eight minutes without a field goal, watching as a three-point lead dissolved into an 18-point deficit. There was little the Trojans could do as shot after shot clanked away.
“Our offense just went into a deep freeze,” Enfield said.
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The deep shots never dropped, as USC shot an abysmal two for 18 from long range before Boogie Ellis hit a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer. The tempo never turned up either.
USC’s guards struggled to initiate the Trojans’ new style of offense, failing to push the pace while USC’s forwards sprinted the floor, trying to get in position.
“We didn’t play fast,” Ellis said. “We kind of got away from it.”
Ellis had 19 points to lead USC in scoring and finished with zero turnovers, but the rest of the Trojans’ backcourt struggled mightily throughout. Senior Drew Peterson added just seven points, while sophomore Reese Dixon-Waters went one for five from the field.
Enfield put the brunt of the blame for USC’s inept offense on his guards, whom the Trojans need to carry the load this season if they have any hope of bouncing back from Monday’s setback.
“They have to score,” Enfield said. “Our big guys did their job tonight, but we have to be able to make plays for each other on the offensive end.”
One big guy, in particular, made quite an impression. Josh Morgan was named the Big West Defensive player of the year as a freshman at Long Beach State before transferring to USC ahead of the 2020-21 season. That pedigree was put on display Monday as Morgan blocked seven shots, one short of the USC school record. He added six points and nine rebounds.
But Morgan’s block party quickly turned into a wake, as Florida Gulf Coast buried USC during its second-half drought.
As he faced the team after his first season-opening loss since 2015, Enfield was at a loss for words. “We just didn’t have it tonight,” he said. “There’s not a lot else to say right now.”
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