USC breezes, beating Howard 82-60

AL BALDERAS (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A lazy Sunday afternoon turned into a lackadaisical first half by the USC men's basketball team.

The Trojans turned things around in the second half and eventually coasted to a 82-60 win over Howard University, at the Galen Center.

Byron Wesley led the Trojans with 20 points, scoring 14 of them in the second half.

The Trojans (9-4) posted their first nine-win season over nonconference opponents since 2011.

The win should have been easier for the Trojans, who despite holding a 2-to-1 edge in rebounds in the first half, were unable to shake themselves loose from a gutsy Howard team.

The Trojans had 22 rebounds in the first half, to Howard's 11 but they also had 12 turnovers, and converted just five of 14 free throws.

USC led by only three points at halftime but Julian Jacobs ignited a strong second half by scoring the Trojans' first five points. Wesley took Jacobs' lead and rattled off two 3-pointers and a short jumper to contribute to a 13-4 run that gave the Trojans a 42-30 lead. Byron also led the Trojans on a 21-4 run later in the second half that led to a 63-42 margin and put the game out of reach.

The Trojans could have made things easier on themselves by playing a little sharper in the first half. USC shot 50 percent from the floor in the opening frame but took eight fewer shots.

Howard, on the other hand, entered the game shooting 38 percent from the floor this season. The Bison shot 40 percent in the first half, and knocked down one more field goal than USC.

Howard, was 0-10 on the road this season prior to Sunday's matchup after having lost 12 of their previous 13 games.

Howard was also without the services of freshman guard and leading scorer James Daniel (19.8 points per game). Daniel missed his fourth consecutive game with a toe injury.

Even without Daniel, the Bison was not completely helpless. Prince Okoroh took a 15.8 scoring average into the contest. Additionally, Keon Hill, Marcel Boyd and James Miller led the Bison in scoring in at least one game earlier in the season.

The Trojans' biggest lead of the first half came at the 7:27 mark, when Wesley's basket gave USC a 24-15 lead.

USC had an eight-point advantage with 3:31 left in the first half when Omar Oraby sank one of two free throws.

Howard closed out the half by scoring the final five points. Three came on a long-range basket by Hill, and the other two were the result of a short jumper by Okoroh.

The Trojans could have added to their lead but Roschon Prince and Wesley took turns missing two free throws each.