USC's J.T. Terrell, left, and Ari Stewart practice at the Galen Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Nightmares aren't wiped out in 40 minutes.
But you have to start somewhere to ease, if not erase, the memory of a school-record, 26-loss season. The USC men's basketball team took that initial step in the opener against overmatched Coppin State, winning, 87-73, on Friday night at Galen Center.
Center Omar Oraby and guards Byron Wesley and J.T. Terrell combined for 50 points for the Trojans, and the 7-foot-2 Oraby, a transfer from Rice, immediately showed his ability. He had 16 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
His presence in the lineup was secured Thursday when the NCAA granted his waiver petition, meaning he would not have to sit out a season.
Trojans Coach Kevin O'Neill used a car analogy this week when talking about the team's potential ability to play more of an up-tempo style. Not only does USC have a bigger engine, as he pointed out, but at least there seems to be plenty of healthy bodies around to drive the car this time around — unlike the injury-riddled campaign last season.
Against Coppin State, O'Neill used 11 players in the first half, and all but three of them scored in the opening 20 minutes.
Overall, five Trojans finished with at least seven points.
"We're going to get better," O'Neill said after the game. "It's the first time in four years we've had any depth."
Terrell had 17 points, as did Wesley, who went six for 10 and hit three three-pointers. Forward Dewayne Dedmon had 12 rebounds.
Starting point guard Jio Fontan, who missed last season with a torn ACL, was more a facilitator than scorer, finishing with four points and seven assists. In fact, Fontan didn't score until there was 7:41 remaining, with the game already in hand.
If you wanted to summon a nearly ideal opponent for the opener, it would be Coppin State, which finished two games under .500 last season and returned no starters from that squad. Patrick Cole led Coppin State with 25 points against USC and Troy Franklin added 23.
Coppin State made things interesting enough in the first half, pulling within five points with 1:37 remaining, before the Trojans finished the half on a 5-0 run to lead 40-30. USC carried that late momentum into the second half, opening with a 7-0 run to take a 17-point lead.