USC's balance will be tough for Lehigh to counter

LOS ANGELES -- A variety of offensive weapons have impacted each of the first three games of the season by No. 10-ranked USC -- all wins. That balance will be difficult for Lehigh to defend when the teams meet Wednesday at Galen Center.

The Trojans survived a scare on the road Nov. 19 at Vanderbilt, needing overtime to hold off the Commodores, 93-89. In that contest -- in which USC rallied from a double-digit deficit -- guard Jordan McLaughlin's 3-point shooting was the newest element of the offense to emerge.

He knocked down 5 of 11 from behind the arc, including the game-tying shot to force overtime, which McLaughlin made off the dribble when freed up on a ball screen.

McLaughlin, hitting a career-high 35 points, gives USC a different leading scorer in each of its first three contests, and it marked the second time in as many outings that a Trojan hit a career-high. In a reversal of roles, forward Bennie Boatwright -- typically a 3-point shooter -- scored a personal best 28 points Nov. 13 against North Dakota State while hitting only one basket from deep.

Forward Chimezie Metu scored 18 points to lead the way in the Nov. 10 season opener against Cal State Fullerton.

"Now that we got a more experienced team, a deeper team, it gives us an advantage over our opponents," McLaughlin told the L.A. Times. "So we've just got to put it all together."

Offensive balance is a trait USC shares with Lehigh, a team off to its best start in nine years.

The Mountain Hawks (3-1) had six scorers in double figures in a 95-70 rout of Eastern University on Sunday.

"I was pleased because we had six guys in double figures and had so many assists," Lehigh coach Brett Reed said in his post-game press conference. "The ball was being shared and in the type of environment where guys can sometimes get a little bit greedy, so it was really good to see unselfishness from them."

Five Lehigh players average between 10.5 and 15.8 points through the Mountain Hawks' first four games. Guard Lance Tejada leads the way with 15.8 points per game, and is shooting 44 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Lehigh's offensive balance keys a clean, methodical style that USC will aim to disrupt with its pressing defensive approach. The Mountain Hawks rank No. 9 nationally in turnover percentage, and No. 7 in steals allowed per possession according to metrics. In contrast, the aggressive Trojans rank No. 40 nationally in the percentage of opponent possessions resulting in turnovers (23.9).

USC can expect a look similar to that of North Dakota State, which played tough with the Trojans before USC pulled away to a 75-65 win. The Bison took a five-point lead midway through the second half, often waiting until under 10 seconds left on the shot clock before attempting field goals.

Coach Andy Enfield's switch to a half-court zone both against North Dakota State and Vanderbilt proved pivotal. The Trojans trailed the Commodores by 14 with 3:33 left in the first half, but USC's zone forced four of 16 turnovers for the game in that final stretch to take a lead at intermission.

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