No. 10 USC wants to get defensive versus North Dakota State

LOS ANGELES -- No. 10 USC doubled up Cal State Fullerton in its season opener, 84-42, while holding the visiting Titans to 23.3 percent field-goal shooting.

And yet, Trojans forward Chimezie Metu believes USC (1-0) can be much better defensively.

"Messing up on switches (off screens), not talking in transition defense; this team (Cal State Fullerton) is good, but when we get to Pac-12, teams will be able to take (advantage) of that," Metu said.

The Trojans will not tip off Pac-12 Conference competition for almost two months, but head coach Andy Enfield said the nonconference schedule ahead of his team should present a serious challenge.

Enfield cited upcoming opponents Texas A&M, SMU, Oklahoma, and the Trojans' next matchup with North Dakota State on Monday.

The Bison reached three NCAA Tournaments in the past seven years out of the Summit League, twice playing power programs within 10 points (Kansas in 2009 and Gonzaga in 2015), and upsetting Oklahoma in 2014.

Guard Paul Miller was a freshman on the team that hung tough with Gonzaga. He said he sees similarly marquee opportunities for this season's North Dakota State bunch.

"That should be our goal," Miller said. "This team is a little deeper, and maybe even a little more talented than that team was. We've got the bar set high for ourselves."

North Dakota State, which finished 19-11 in 2016-17, opened its season Saturday with an 85-66 loss at UC Santa Barbara.

Miller scored 18 points and matched his career best of six assists. Sophomore forward Deng Geu and guard Cameron Hunter added 11 points apiece.

The Bison left temperatures dipping into the single digits in Fargo for a road swing in sunny southern California, but fourth-year head coach David Richman recognizes the challenge and opportunity of traveling to face a top 10 opponent.

"We're well aware we're going to play a very talented, very deep USC team, and a very well-coached team," Richman said. "The big phrase at North Dakota State is 'bring on the competition.'"

USC's depth was evident in its opener, with guard Derryck Thornton coming off the bench to score 11 points with three made 3-pointers. Enfield also goes into his rotation to give minutes to guard Shaqquan Aaron, which allows the Trojans to play a full-court press defense.

That pressure defense resulted in 21 forced turnovers against Cal State Fullerton, despite Metu's lament of USC having areas for improvement on the defensive end. One area in which the Trojans can improve upon their defensive performance is through offensive output.

Enfield noted he would like to pressure more, but that entails scoring to get set up. USC shot just a shade over 41 percent from the floor on opening night.

USC's pursuit to generate takeaways juxtaposes against a North Dakota State offense that excelled protecting its possessions a season ago. The Bison were No. 65 in the nation in turnover percent per metrics, and No. 95 in effective field-goal percentage.

North Dakota State will need to be locked in on both phases -- the Bison cannot afford a 23.3 percent shooting night with 21 turnovers, as USC forced of Cal State Fullerton.

"It's great to go there, have a chance to compete, and kind of make a name for ourselves right away to start the season," Miller said. "It's a great opportunity for us."
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