LOS ANGELES — This cross-country crucible, which began with a humbling 88-67 loss at Purdue Wednesday night in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest, will culminate Sunday night when the Boston College men’s basketball team attempts to rebound by facing Southern California of the Pac-12 Conference at the Galen Center.
For the four California natives on BC’s roster, led by junior forward Ryan Anderson of Lakewood, it will serve as a rare homecoming. To a man, they won’t be lacking in motivation.
“Definitely, any time you get to go home and see your family and friends and see some familiar territory, it’s always comforting, especially during a long season like this,’’ said Anderson, BC’s second-leading scorer (18.6 points per game) behind sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan (20.9).
“It’s nice that Coach [Steve] Donahue has planned two Southern California trips since I’ve been here. It’s been something that we’ve been looking forward to for a while, so hopefully we can get the win.’’
To do so, the Eagles (3-5) will have to address the issues that led to them getting “outworked, out-toughed,’’ Donahue said, in Wednesday’s sobering loss in West Lafayette, Ind.
“They had more resolve than we did and we let that environment get to us,’’ said Donahue, whose team was doomed by a 19-3 first-half run by Purdue. “That’s the craziest thing about college basketball — it’s extremely difficult to win on the road. That’s why teams win 85-90 percent of their [home] games. That team was locked in, that environment was crazy, and we didn’t handle it all that well.
“So you have to give a lot of credit to them.’’
In search of their first true road win of the season, the Eagles held a spirited practice Saturday morning at Loyola High School. It was attended by actor Chris O’Donnell, a 1992 BC graduate, and his two young sons, Chip and Charlie.
BC emphasized the need to control the tempo against USC (5-3).
First-year Trojans coach Andy Enfield, who took 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast of the Atlantic Sun Conference on a magical run to the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament, has attempted to bring a bit of “Dunk City’’ to Tinseltown by implementing a similar uptempo approach.
Through eight games, the Trojans have outdunked their opposition, 27-9. USC had five dunks in its last game, an 84-78 victory over Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas Nov. 30.
“They play at an incredible pace,’’ Donahue said of the Trojans, who are led by 6-foot-5-inch junior guard Byron Wesley (17.6 ppg). “Andy’s tried to put in a system that goes up and down and the kids are doing it. When they play well, they’re getting to the rim in transition. We’ve got to somehow control the tempo with our offense, by getting good shots with good floor balance.
“If you start to get up and down, get careless with the ball, and you’re not good with your shot selection, that’s when USC has been able to do really well in transition.’’
If the Eagles are unable to execute offensively, take care of the ball, and defend, it could make for a long trip home to Boston.
“Obviously, you want to play well, personally, going back home in front of everybody,’’ said Joe Rahon, a sophomore guard and cocaptain from San Diego. “Your family wants to see you do well, but they want to see you happy and they want to see you win.
“Win, and everyone’s happy. But if you lose, it’s going to be a long flight back.”