Southern California Trojans vs. Cal. State – Bakersfield Roadrunners Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 9th 2023

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No. 21 Southern California will return to the Galen Center in Los Angeles to play its first home game of the season on Thursday night against Cal State Bakersfield.

The Trojans (1-0) tipped off their campaign with an 82-69 win over Kansas State on Monday in Las Vegas. USC’s Boogie Ellis went for 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while highly touted freshman Isaiah Collier debuted with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor.

Collier also had a game-high six assists.

“I feel like it’s a new era of USC basketball,” Collier said after the game. “We came out and we performed.”

USC is seeking the first run of four consecutive NCAA Tournament trips in program history this year, and will look to contend for its first Pac-12 Conference regular-season title since 1985.

Despite the win, Trojans coach Andy Enfield noted in his postgame press conference that they were outrebounded 44-41.

“We got our hands on a lot of balls in the first half — loose balls, rebounding — and (did not) come up with them,” Enfield said. “Our big guys have to rebound. If they don’t, they have to box out at least and have our guards and forwards rebound the ball.”

USC gave up offensive rebounds on 32.3 percent of opponents’ missed shots a season ago, per KenPom.com metrics, one of the worst averages in the nation.

The Trojans’ opponent on Thursday, Cal State Bakersfield (1-0), gave up 25 offensive rebounds on Monday to Southern Utah. The Roadrunners came away with a 73-72 win, and it was sealed on Kaleb Higgins’ two free throws just before time expired.

Higgins scored 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor. He was the only Bakersfield scorer in double figures, though three Roadrunners recorded eight points and nine players contributed at least one made field goal.

Ten Roadrunners also grabbed multiple rebounds, including Cameron Wilbon with five. Wilbon, a Sacramento State transfer, was an addition that coach Rod Barnes said during Big West Conference media day was a needed addition to provide size (6-foot-5) to the backcourt.

“He’s a big guard. We’re really excited; he’s a guy that can play all three positions,” Barnes said.

Wilbon is one member of a contingent of multiple new faces expected to play key roles for a Bakersfield program looking to rebound from last season’s 11-22 finish. The Roadrunners lost six of their last seven games and placed eighth in the Big West.

The 2023-24 Cal State Bakersfield offense faces a considerable test against a Southern Cal defense that held opponents to 42.7 percent shooting on 2-point field-goal attempts last season — the second-stingiest yield in the nation.

Though the Trojans’ lineup features several new faces, one figure key to last year’s defensive prowess, Joshua Morgan, blocked five shots in Monday’s opener against Kansas State. Standout perimeter defender Kobe Johnson came away with four steals and also blocked a shot against the Wildcats.

–Field Level Media

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