USC was picked by Pacific 10 coaches to finish third in the league in a preseason poll. Cal State Long Beach was relegated to ninth in a similar poll by Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. coaches.
The ninth-place team looked like an upper division team Wednesday night at the Sports Arena. As for USC, it had the look of a cellar team, which is where it resided last season.
Cal State Long Beach thoroughly dominated the Trojans in winning, 85-66, before a small gathering of 3,483.
The 49ers ran away from the Trojans in the second half, while forcing errors with a pressing defense. Long Beach got baskets inside and out while shooting 70.3% in the second half.
USC's offense mainly consisted of the three-point bombing by guard Anthony Pendleton. He made 9 of 15 three-points shots and finished with 29 points.
Otherwise, USC didn't have much offense, especially an inside game. The Trojans were just as remiss on defense.
By winning, Cal State Long Beach improved its record to 3-1, while USC is 1-5. The Trojans have yet to beat a Division I team. Their only win was against Seattle, an NAIA school.
"At the risk of oversimplifying things, we played very poorly in all aspects of the game while Long Beach played well in every aspect," USC Coach George Raveling said. "They had the best defense of anyone we've played against. And they did a good job of taking advantage of our mistakes."
The Trojans were in the game at halftime, trailing, 41-37, before Long Beach went on a 14-4 spurt at the outset of the second half.
USC never recovered. Long Beach led by 24 points twice and, after the Trojans closed within 13 points at 74-61 with 5:10 left, the 49ers quickly pulled away again.
"It was our best game in terms of running our offense and playing pressure defense," Cal State Long Beach Coach Joe Harrington said. "I'm glad we could keep our intensity up the whole game. We worked hard all fall and I think it showed."
The 49ers were led by forward Andre Purry and center John Hatten. Purry got 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Hatten, a wide-bodied postman at 6 feet 9 inches and 250 pounds, scored 22 points in the fast paced game.
"We were psyched," Hatten said. "All the hard work in practice paid off. It felt like the best college game I've ever had--the kind you dream of."
Long Beach shot 61.2% for the game, while USC shot 39.6%, only 31% in the second half.
Forward Ronnie Coleman was the only Trojan to score in double figures besides Pendleton. He had 15 points.
As promised, Raveling opened with a new lineup--Coleman and Alan Pollard at forwards, Andy Olivarez at one guard position, joining holdovers Chris Munk at center and guard Dave Wiltz.
So much for a new look. That lineup didn't get it done, though, as the 49ers opened up a 13-point lead in the first seven minutes.
Raveling said that starting lineups are over stated. "It's not that important," the USC coach said. "I'm more interested in finding people who can work together. We're playing some strangers out there. We're not a cohesive team."
He has said that before, but time is running out on the Trojans. They play a nonconference game against Tennessee Saturday at the Sports Arena, take a week off for final examinations, then open the conference schedule Dec. 21 against Stanford at Palo Alto.
Raveling has 10 new players on his squad, and it's obvious they aren't acquainted in the the sense of being oriented as a team.
The USC coach used 12 players Wednesday night in fire drill fashion to no avail. Pendleton made 9 of 16 shots, while Coleman was 5 for 8. As for the others, they were a combined 7 for 29 from the field.
When Raveling was asked what areas of his team he was most concerned with, he answered succinctly: "All."
He added that it was an emotional game for Long Beach, "probably the game of the year for them."
That remains to be seen. However, Raveling has said that he doesn't like to schedule games with close friends and now it's understandable.
Raveling and Harrington were assistant coaches together at Maryland earlier in their careers.
Guard Rich Grande, one of four holdovers from the 1986-87 team, didn't have an explanation for USC's lackluster performance.
"We just didn't come into the game very intense, even though we knew they'd be fired up," he said.
The Trojans committed 24 turnovers to Long Beach's 18.
It was a scatterball game, one that would make a disciplinarian such as Indiana Coach Bob Knight cringe.
But the Trojans are doing the cringing now.