The announced sold-out crowd never materialized Thursday at Galen Center. But with a talent like Isaiah Collier playing, fans may soon flock downtown to catch a glimpse of the 6-foot-5 guard.
The top-ranked recruit in the country dazzled in his home college debut with 19 points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds in USC’s 85-59 blowout of Cal State Bakersfield. Sophomore guard Oziyah Sellers had 16 points as USC had five double-digit scorers. Transfer forward DJ Rodman had 11 points in the first half, including three three-pointers, and finished with 15.
Senior guard Kaleb Higgins led the Roadrunners (1-1) with 19 points.
Collier fueled a 12-0 USC run to finish the first half, scoring or assisting on nine of the points as the No. 21 Trojans (2-0) took a 47-23 lead. He sank two free throws, dished an assist to Sellers on a three-pointer and poked the ball away from Bakersfield’s Naseem Gaskin before driving baseline and kissing a reverse layup off the glass that gently spun through the rim. It was just a precursor to his first-half finale.
Collier capped the scoring streak with a slick crossover dribble at the three-point line, driving into the lane and tossing up another up-and-under layup between two defenders.
Comedian Chris Rock stood up from his courtside seat and cheered. Collier shook his head nonchalantly toward the packed student section that was filled more than an hour before the game.
The guard from Atlanta could be the key to galvanizing a fan base that has yet to fully embrace the men’s basketball program despite its recent success. The Trojans are coming off a school-record fourth consecutive 20-win season, but averaged just the eighth-best home attendance in the Pac-12 last year.
USC’s other new star attraction sat at the end of the bench in a gray sweatsuit.
Bronny James, who suffered cardiac arrest this summer, is progressing toward a check-up appointment at the end of the month, his father, LeBron James, told reporters this week. If the results are positive, then the freshman from Sierra Canyon soon will join his teammates at practice.
James got loud applause when he was introduced before the game. One fan sat several rows behind a basket wearing a James Jr. No. 6 jersey. The freshman was one of four active college basketball players whose jerseys were made available with their names for the first time through a name, image and licensing partnership with Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The others are women’s stars — USC’s JuJu Watkins, Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.