USC stunned by Florida Gulf Coast in season-opening loss

When “Dunk City” first enthralled the nation a decade ago, its blistering pace and high-flying style turned the Florida Gulf Coast into a March wonder — all while convincing USC of a bright future with Andy Enfield as coach.

Nine seasons at USC would mean many changes to that blueprint. But with his Trojans’ frontcourt now lacking 7-foot stars, Enfield planned on going back to those roots in his 10th, spreading the ground with four guards, picking up the pace and shooting from deep, not quite unlike Dunk City had done all those years ago.

It took an entire November night for those plans to derail – which was accomplished by the original Dunk City itself in a disastrous season-opening loss (74-61) to Florida’s Gulf Coast at the Galen Center.

“I thought we were ready to play tonight, but it didn’t look like it,” Enfield said. “That’s on me.”

It would be hard to imagine a more troubling debut for USC, who opened last season with a 13-0 tear and beat opponents by an average 15-point margin before struggling for the first time in January.

This season, adversity ensued shortly after the opening tip of USC’s opener. After an 8-on-12 start from the field, the Trojans took what appeared to be a smooth path to victory. They were absolutely trampled on offense, outscored 46-35 on the glass and generally outclassed by Enfield’s former team.

At one point, USC went eight minutes without a field goal and watched a three-point lead dissolve into an 18-point deficit. There was little the Trojans could do as shot after shot rang out.

“Our offense just went into a deep freeze,” Enfield said.

The deep shots never came as USC fired a miserable two for 18 from long range before Boogie Ellis hit a desperate three on the buzzer. The pace has never increased either.

USC’s guards struggled to initiate the Trojans’ new attacking style and were unable to pick up the pace while USC’s forwards sprinted to the ground trying to get into position.

“We didn’t play fast,” Ellis said. “We kind of got away from that.”

Ellis had 19 points to lead USC in standings and finished with zero turnovers, but the rest of the Trojans’ backcourt struggled a lot throughout. Senior Drew Peterson added just seven points while sophomore Reese Dixon-Waters went one for five from the field.

Enfield put the main blame for USC’s inept offense on his guards, who the Trojans will need to carry this season if they have any hope of recovering from Monday’s setback.

USC coach Andy Enfield yells and points during a game against UCLA in March.

USC coach Andy Enfield, seen here during a game against UCLA in March, wasn’t happy with what he saw of his offense on Monday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“You have to score,” Enfield said. “Our big ones did their job tonight, but we have to be able to play for each other on offense.”

One tall 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 joining USC ahead of the 2020-21 season. That pedigree was on display Monday when Morgan parried seven shots, one below the USC school record. He added six points and nine rebounds.

But Morgan’s block party quickly turned into a wake as the Florida Gulf Coast buried USC during the second-half drought.

When he faced the team after suffering his first season-opening loss since 2015, Enfield was at a loss for words. “We just didn’t have it tonight,” he said. “There is nothing more to say at the moment.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/story/2022-11-07/usc-basketball-fgcu-season-opener-loss-recap USC stunned by Florida Gulf Coast in season-opening loss

Emma Bowman

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