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USC men’s basketball opens Pac-12 play grappling with mistakes

LOS ANGELES — USC men’s basketball returned from the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas with two losses in three games and a mixed bag of takeaways.

Yes, the Trojans lost their last two games but also were within a possession of beating top-25 Tennessee before the game went to overtime, not to mention a close call with Wisconsin. And yes, USC showed improvement offensively compared to the first few games of the season, but still managed to sabotage itself on that side of the court.

So head coach Andy Enfield has been stressing these offensive mistakes to the Trojans as they prepare for their Pac-12 opener on Wednesday at Cal.

“We’re right there, but we also made some big mistakes in both games that did not give us a chance to win either one,” Enfield said. “The turnovers, a couple defensive mistakes and not being able to score when the game was on the line. So as excited as we are about our improvement the last couple weeks, for experienced players, we made some mistakes that did not look like experienced players.”

The Trojans averaged 14 turnovers per game in the Bahamas. This included 19 in the loss to the Volunteers, a game in which USC led by four with 3:21 left in regulation but did not score again until overtime. During those extra five minutes, USC gave the ball away six times.

It’s particularly frustrating for USC (4-3) given the Trojans have been good on defense, even with so many freshman contributors. USC has held opponents to 38.2% shooting this year and only twice have the Trojans allowed a team to shoot above 40% this season.

“Offensively we didn’t do our job,” Enfield said. “We didn’t pass the ball when it needed to be passed on time. We overdribbled. And we had a lot of unforced turnovers and that was self-inflicted.”

What USC is hanging onto at this point is the signs of improvement on offense. The younger players are starting to understand the spacing and flow of the system and finding ways to play around veterans like Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis, who have been asked to do a lot through seven games.

“Everyone’s playing their role well,” Peterson said.

USC will get eased into Pac-12 play. Cal is the first major-conference team in the past 40 years to open a season 0-7, including losses to UC San Diego, Southern and Texas State. The Trojans will follow the conference opener with a home game against a 3-4 Oregon State team Sunday.

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