That's the question that has to be asked right now. After the split on the road against the LA schools, it was good to get one chalked up in the win column. Arguably, USC was the league hottest team winning the Diamond Head classic and integrating the transfers into their lineup to give Kevin O'Neill a good group of veterans that allowed the Trojans to play their coaches hard nose D. With USC winning 56-50, the only surprise was that the Cats made it cose.
At UCLA, the Bruins had finally climbed within sight of .500 and dealt the improving Sun Devils a defeat, so imagine the surprise when the Cats came out and seized control of the game and never relented as they exhibited a workmanlike performance en route to a 77-63 victory.
So what was so significant?
Thursday's game - The Defense! The man-to-man showed some bite. Help defenders moved and it appeared that the light went off for the team. The USC defeat was not unexpected. Going down by 17 early in the 1st half (27-10) was ugly to watch. Then in a moment of epiphany, there was a defensive stop and then a board. The tide had changed, the lead was below 15. Then down to 10 and under ten by half time. It wasn't that someone got hot, no one was hot during the SC game. Rather it appeared that the Cats started to implement what had been taught, the lane started to get clogged. Opposing rebounders were getting blocked out, the occasional open shot was made.
Also of note, a couple of offensive items, Derrick Williams has been spending time working on free throws and it shows. Strangely enough, it may develop that Jamelle Horne is our best 3pt shooter. He has faith in the shot and he's shooting it at a better than 40% clip. Solomon Hill appears to be working with Fyle Fogg in doing what is needed, his help defense has improved. Kevin Parrom being inserted into the rotation has been a lift as well.
Saturday's game - the Cats came out inspired and it showed. The defensive presence that had manifested itself too late in the USC game was evident from the beginning of this game. The Cats blocked out, challenged shots, rebounded effectively. By the time of the first TV timeout, the Cats were looking like a team that knew its game plan and were determined to execute it. Kudos to both the Coach and the team. Fewer turnovers, better shot selection and they played aggressively on both ends of the floor for a sustained effort and as a result, got their first road victory. The team looked like they were having fun for the first time this year. Congrats to Kyle Fogg on his career high and helping to be the impetus to drive both the defense and offence. Brandon Lavender even netted his first three since anyone can remember.
as for those noticing the details, MoMo Jones was suspended for the UCLA game (disciplinary) and Alex Jacobson didn't make the trip due to back spasms.