(East Los Angeles, CA) April 2, 2021 [From The Editor’s Desk]: This was the first time in twenty years that the Trojans had reached the “Elite Eight” bracket of the NCAA Men’s D-1 Tournament and Head Coach Andy Enfield had the dilemma of facing the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the #1 team in the country. Did the bracketologists see this coming? And thus, who would’ve or could’ve thought that this was in store for the tournament’s “head-turning,” “Kansas slaying,” and #6 seeded West Region’s USC Trojans.
Nonetheless, the veteran Coach that Enfield is, didn’t shortchange himself nor his team. He simply asked his players to Fight On as hard as they could on this gigantic new stage of fan appreciation, better known as “March Madness.” Given the fact that each team has what’s called the opening tip “jitters” or “butterflies” at the start of a competition like this, it became quickly apparent that the Men of Troy were caught with this malaise and quickly turned the ball over 3 out of the first 4 times it had possession.
(Game Summary): (1st Half) The flag was up and the Bulldogs came out of the gate running, and running, and running some more. The adrenalin stayed at a high level throughout the period. While working hard, they forced turnovers via the steal, and then by intimidating the Trojans with their “above the rim” and “ground & pound” attacks. By the (15:00) minute mark, the score had ballooned to a very lop-sided (29-12). Many fans in Lucas Oil Stadium and the millions watching had already decided the outcome. Gonzaga was the overwhelming favorite compared to the huge underdog, USC. The Trojans had six turnovers with just five made baskets.
Gonzaga’s offense was led by its starters Drew Timme, Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, and Andrew Nembhard who were putting on a clinic for free with their collective talents. Head Coach Mark Few, one of the biggest names in college hoops for decades, simply asked one player to perform, then take a break while a reserve teammate could also benefit from playing precious minutes in the Elite Eight while also performing in a game of his dreams. Share and share alike could be the team motto that drives the Bulldog Express to victory after victory. And, come to think of it, caring is sharing could also apply.
Meanwhile, USC’s vaunted Mobley Brothers attack, accustomed to scoring points in bunches, both in and out-of-the-paint, was not a factor as the Zags had already left them in the dust with lay-up after lay-up, and jump shot after jump shot. The Trojan defense was nowhere to be found.
(Half- Time Score): Gonzaga 49 USC 30
(2nd Half): Although the teams scored (36) points apiece, the outcome had been settled by halftime. The second period was pretty much a replica of the first in the sense that the Bulldogs played their game and used many of their reserves, in fact, playing (12) rostered players, while the Trojans tried to close the gap, but there were no extended runs of any type to overcome the huge Gonzaga lead.
After trailing by (24) in the half, USC got no closer than (13) points, even after committing just three turnovers in the second half. In the end, it was the total advantage of Gonzaga’s points in the paint with (46) and fast break points with (21) compared to the Trojans with (32) and (10), in the same categories respectively.
To end their tournament run on a positive note, Evan Mobley and older brother, Isaiah Mobley, were both named to the 2021 NCAA Tournament All-West Regional Team. The Trojans ended their season with an excellent record of (25-8). USC had only one previous appearance in the Elite Eight, in 2001, under Head Coach, Henry Bibby.
(Trojans Stat-Line): Isaiah Mobley/19 pts/7 reb/3 asst/1 blk; Evan Mobley/17 pts/5 reb/3 asst; Drew Peterson/13 pts/6 reb/2 stl; & Tahj Eaddy/11 pts/2 reb/2 asst.
(Special Closing Game Note): Veteran NCAA Referee, Bert Smith is recovering from his collapse in the first half of game. After immediate attention was rendered to him by Doctors in attendance, he was fortunately able to regain consciousness and then be taken into the Officials’ Dressing room for further observation and any necessary treatments. The auxiliary replacement official then came on to replace him and finish the game. Our Thoughts and Prayers still go out to Mr. Smith. Take care and God Bless!!
(FINAL SCORE): Gonzaga 85 USC 66