Given the holiday season, we’re all familiar with the urge to overplay with a new toy. The same can apply to basketball coaches and players, too.
Five-star prospect Evan Mobley has been the exciting new toy for the USC men’s basketball team this season. The 7-foot freshman center has been a machine for the Trojans, averaging 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in his first seven games.
But Thursday’s Pac-12 opening loss to Colorado was a good reminder that Mobley is in fact human, and subject to things such as fatigue.
Mobley looked much like himself in the first half of the 72-62 loss to the Buffaloes, with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting. But he played 18:29 in that half, with only 91 seconds of rest.
That caught up to him in the second half, in which he played 18:28 of game time as the Trojans (5-2, 0-1 in Pac-12) attempted a comeback. Mobley missed all but one of his eight attempts from the field as his legs grew tired from the workload.
Following the game, head coach Andy Enfield took responsibility for Mobley’s dip in production, saying he needs to give the freshman more stints on the bench so he can maintain his energy level better.
“I played him too many minutes,” Enfield said. “I need to manage his minutes better. He got a little winded and I didn’t realize it. … This is the first game where he kinda got knocked off his game a little bit, so to speak, but he’s a great player and competitor so he’ll be back.”
Enfield said he expects to give Mobley an additional period of rest in each half going forward. Fortunately, USC is deep in the front court and has the pieces to spell Mobley.
Mobley starts next his older brother Isaiah. The Trojans also have options to come off the bench like grad transfer Chevez Goodwin and freshman Boubacar Coulibaly. And USC just added Long Beach State transfer Josh Morgan to the active roster following the NCAA’s decision to allow all transfers immediate eligibility this season.
But on Thursday, Goodwin was the only big to come off the bench for USC as the Trojans played most of the game from behind. And against a physical Colorado team, USC’s forwards went a combined 11-for-29 from the floor.
“Our front line has been playing great all season, and that was the most surprising thing to me tonight was the easy shots we were missing and not finishing, which we almost always do,” Enfield said.
Saturday’s game against Utah (4-2, 1-1) could be a good opportunity to bounce back. The Utes, still in search for their first Pac-12 road win since the winter of 2019, rank 290th in the Division I in rebounding margin (-5.3).
Utah at USC
When: Saturday, 1 p.m. PT
Where: Galen Center
TV/Radio: Pac-12/AM 790