The USC Trojans found their footing in the second half to defeat the Florida A&M University Rattlers 77-48. This matchup marks the first time the two basketball teams played against one another.
The youth of the Trojans men’s basketball team carried them to victory, forward Onyeka Okongwu led the way with 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks; Fairfax alum Ethan Anderson made seven assists. Okongwu matched the program record on blocks made in a game during the contest.
“It’s been a long couple months of practice and it’s just fun to go out there and play for real,” Okongwu said.
FAMU forward D.J. Jones scored 12 points and guard M.J. Randolph made nine rebounds and four assists.
“Most nights, he’s going to give away a lot in terms of strength factor, but yet he’s fast and he’s quick,” Florida A&M men’s basketball head coach Robert McCullum said about Jones. “He has to find a way to gain an advantage in terms of his speed and quickness vs the power and strength that someone else has.”
Okongwu, forward Isaiah Mobley and guard Ethan Anderson made their collegiate debuts as starters. Freshman guard Kyle Sturdivant gave the Trojans energy during second-half play, ultimately scoring four assists.
“Two freshmen point guards got 11 assists and two turnovers,” said USC men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield said. “Ethan (Anderson) and Kyle (Sturdivant) take care of the basketball, they have great change of speed pace in their game.”
Florida created a 6-0 run midway through the first half. Veteran guard Jonah Mathews was subbed in and helped the Trojans find a 4-point run. Trojans found success in committing full-court presses, the Rattlers made long-distance passes to break free from defensive pressure.
Florida A&M found points through ball movement, although Okongwu got six blocks against them. Guard Brendon Myles and Jones found shots, contesting against guard Elijah Weaver’s and Okongwu’s baskets.
Neither team could establish dominance in the first half, which consisted of six ties and nine lead changes. By halftime, USC was up 24-23
The Trojans were more dominant in the second half, creating a 10-2 run in less than four regulated minutes. Although the Rattlers pushed the pace and moved the ball, they struggled with making shots. Mobley and Okongwu also disrupted the FAMU offense with blocks.
“He got a bunch of dunks, which freed me up in the second half,” Mobley said about Okongwu. “He always lifts my spirits.”
Center Evins Desir hustled in the paint for layups. Foul trouble plagued FAMU, as Jones got his fourth foul and was sent to the bench. The USC defense intensified as the team made eight second-half steals.
Mobley scored all 17 of his points in the second half, going 5-7 from the field. This aided the Trojans to 56 percent in field goal shooting, a 20-percent increase from their first half effort.
Veterans Mathews and Nick Rakocevic combined for 13 points. Forward Max Agbonkpolo poured in 10 points in his first collegiate performance.
The Trojans host Portland on Friday November 8 at 8:00P.M.