Slow starts to each half proved disastrous for USC as the Trojans lost a chance to add a résumé-building win.
No. 11 Gonzaga led wire-to-wire during an 89-76 win over USC on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of the Legends of Basketball Las Vegas Invitational. The Trojans are 1-1 in nonconference games in Las Vegas this season.
“Tough game for us,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We struggled from the line in that first half and with our shot-making. It should’ve been a lot closer to that point; it’s hard to be behind by six to 12 points most of the game and try to come back on a team like this.”
The loss drops the Trojans to 5-3 as they prepare to return home to play Long Beach State in eight days. Senior guard Boogie Ellis led all scorers with 28 points on 12-for-21 shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Through the first five minutes of each half, Gonzaga outscored USC by a combined 27-10, and the slow starts were too much to overcome.
“We had five wide-open threes to start the game and we went 0 for 5,” Enfield said. “And they made their first four or made four out of their first five. … That’s how you get down 15-2. You can’t have one team make all of the shots that they shoot and we don’t make any.”
Both teams forced 10-plus turnovers, and the Trojans actually forced the Bulldogs into three more turnovers than they had. However, Gonzaga turned its 10 forced turnovers into 15 points and finished with 21 fast-break points. USC finished with 10 points off turnovers and eight fast-break points.
USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier’s scoring was limited, with Gonzaga coach Mark Few instructing his players to double-team Collier on every post-up attempt inside the arc.
As a result, Collier was most effective using his passing to free others for open looks. He had five assists in the first half before cooling off and adding just one in the second.
“He has to keep learning; he’s getting better,” Enfield said. “When there’s frustration on his part, he needs to keep playing that game where he can get in there to score the ball. And if he can’t score it, kick it out. If two or three guys are on you at the rim, it’s time to pass the ball.”
Collier finished with 14 points on six-for-14 shooting, six assists, four rebounds and a steal. He connected on just two of six free throws. As a team, USC shot eight for 17 from the line.
“We do have some things to work on,” Enfield said. “It’s always better to have a full roster to do those, but we’ve had so many injuries early on in the beginning of the season that I’m hoping our freshmen keep improving. We’re going to need a full roster to compete at the level we want to get to.”