J.T. Terrell, who sat out seven games because of academic issues, returned to USC's basketball team for the victory at Dayton last week.
He appeared in his first home game since the suspension Sunday at the Galen Center and played with a disciplined freedom, running the floor, stopping to take long three-point shots when the feeling struck and generally giving USC an offensive presence and energy jolt it seems to need.
The Trojans beat Howard, 82-60, in their last game before they start Pac-12 Conference play at UCLA on Sunday.
Terrell, a senior guard who had led USC in scoring during the league season last year, finished with 18 points and often brought the surprisingly large crowd of 5,563 to its feet with confident three-pointers on fastbreaks and twisting, swirling layups to finish off Trojans runs.
USC (9-4) was led in scoring by Byron Wesley, who offered up a quietly efficient 20 points on eight-for-12 shooting.
Terrell, more flashy, was seven for 13 from the field. Pe'Shon Howard, who had been the Trojans' star in a stunning win at Dayton when he scored two straight three-pointers at the end to give USC an unexpected win, didn't score Sunday but had seven rebounds and nine assists, and freshman Nikola Jovanovic had 15 points and six rebounds.
The Bison (3-13) were led by the 11 points of Prince Okoroh and Solomon Mangham.
USC Coach Andy Enfield was cautiously proud of Terrell.
"He's an experienced guy, a streaky scorer, but he got his game evened out today," Enfield said. "I'd rather have him make the right play more often and have less points than make the spectacular play sometimes."
Terrell said he spent his suspension time watching film and learning more about what is expected of him.
"It was frustrating in a way," Terrell said. "But I'm back now, back for good. I'm going to play defense, shoot threes and drive the holes. That's my game."
Enfield said several things about Terrell impressed him against Howard.
"His shot selection," Enfield said. "He's worked hard at that. He's not just taking long threes to take them. He's passing the ball extremely well. I think sitting out, he realized how badly he wants to be out there and that he was letting himself down and his team down not to be there."
While Enfield was happy about Terrell's maturity and Wesley's consistency, he seemed ecstatic about the progress of Jovanovic, his freshman forward from Serbia.
"Nik is very steady," Enfield said. "He's getting stronger. He's gained 12 pounds. We can count on him in crucial situations, when we couldn't early in the year. Seeing Nikola evolve into what he's becoming is fun."
The biggest thing Enfield is concerned about heading into conference play is USC's tendency to start slowly.
The Trojans led Howard by only 29-26 at halftime and Terrell and Wesley said they had no explanation for the continued first-half blahs.
"I don't know," Wesley said. "But we have to fix it."
Terrell agreed: "We need to come out faster."
Enfield said he had no brilliant insights into how to change the slow starts.
"I'm more old-school," Enfield said. "I was always ready to play. As a coach you're always searching for new ways to motivate. But that's an age-old question, how to start quicker out of the locker room."
It might be best to find an answer before the next game. Coming from behind against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion might be more difficult.
Twitter: @mepucinCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun