• Thu. May 23rd, 2024

USC’s Bronny James starting to find ‘groove,’ scores 10 vs. Cal


LOS ANGELES — As Bronny James stood at the free throw line with two seconds left and a six-point lead against California, California fans at the Galen Center chanted, “Bronny!”

Thrilled to be back home for the first time in 24 days, the Trojans beat the Golden Bears 82-74 on Wednesday to win for just the second time in seven games.

For James, it was his first Pac-12 conference win and first home victory since he returned to the court on Dec. 10 after missing more than four months after suffering cardiac arrest in late July. James, a freshman guard and the eldest son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, later underwent a procedure to treat a congenital heart defect.

James made his first four shots from the field, including throwing down an alley-oop dunk off a pass from fellow freshman standout Isaiah Collier in the first half.

He finished with 10 points, three assists and two rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. While James is still playing under a minutes restriction, he is able to play for longer stretches and has looked more comfortable. He was coming off his best game after scoring a career-best 15 points in an 86-70 loss at Oregon State on Saturday.

“He’s starting to be more confident as a player,” said junior guard Kobe Johnson, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “And he’s starting to play his game.

“When he first got back, he was on a [tighter] minutes restriction and he [was] kind of antsy about what to do. But now he’s starting to get into his groove and starting to become the player that everybody knows he is.”

The Trojans (7-7, 1-2) got big all-around games from their best players. Johnson had a much-needed bounce-back game. Senior guard Boogie Ellis had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. And Collier had 13 points and seven assists with no turnovers to head coach Andy Enfield’s delight.

After USC lost two straight at Oregon and Oregon State last week, Enfield made it clear to his team that he will sit anyone who isn’t taking care of the ball, cutting on offense or defending.

“I’m tired of watching turnovers and no ball movement, no player movement,” Enfield said. “And if you’re going to stand, you’re going to come out of the game, so it’s pretty simple.”

James played 18 minutes against California (4-10, 0-3) after logging a season-high 20 minutes against Oregon State.

Enfield said James’ minutes restriction is decided by the medical staff and “that’ll be kind of a week-by-week type thing.”

“He’s a freshman, [and] this was his sixth game,” Enfield said of James. “He’s developing as a player and it’s nice to see and nice to watch. He’s a typical freshman but he had a little disadvantage over most freshmen where he was out for five months and had to come back in midseason. It’s very hard to do.

“His effort tonight was great on the defensive end and [he had] four deflections. … So we need that bench production. Our bench players have to be productive and he was terrific tonight.”


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