TEMPE, Ariz. — USC doesn't have the incentive of playing for a possible NCAA postseason berth, or getting an invitation from the less-than-selective NIT.
The Trojans, 3-7 in the Pacific 10 and 9-11 overall, are just playing out their season, continuing with tonight's game against Arizona State at the University Activity Center. USC has lost four straight conference games to drop out of Pac-10 contention.
Last week, the Trojans lost in overtime to Washington State, 77-75, and then extended Washington before losing, 70-64, at the Sports Arena.
USC Coach Stan Morrison said he couldn't fault the effort of his young team that features four freshmen. But they were remiss in a vital phase of the game--shooting.
The Trojans haven't shot more than 40% in their last three games.
"If you're not shooting better than 35 or 36 per cent and you're staying in against bigger and stronger teams, then you know you're doing something right," Morrison said. "I think we're defending strongly, rebounding and taking better care of the ball. And if that isn't something to hang your hat on, then nothing is. I'm proud of them."
USC is only a half-game out of the conference cellar and the prospect of beating ASU tonight and Arizona Saturday afternoon in Tucson isn't promising.
The Arizona schools have a combined 21-1 record at home this season. Moreover, USC has an 0-4 road record in league games.
The Trojans have had difficulty against bigger teams, which has affected their shooting. From a size standpoint, though, they match up well against the Sun Devils, who have a front line of 6-6 Dave Kleckner, 6-5 Alex Austin and 6-9 Tarre Isiah.
The attrition rate has been high at ASU this season. Eric Holloway, a 6-7 center, was recently suspended after an altercation with a ball boy.
Forward Chris Sandle, the team's leading scorer at midseason, flunked out of school. Another center, 6-10 Jon Taylor, was suspended for the season by Coach Steve Patterson.
Ron Singleton, a guard who figured in the rotation, was declared academically ineligible at the outset of the season.
So Patterson is now left with only nine players. Even so, the Sun Devils haven't packed it in. They're 4-7 in the league, 10-11 overall.
Trojan Notes Tonight's game will be broadcast by KNX radio and televised live on Prime Ticket cable at 7 p.m. PST. Saturday's Arizona game will be televised by Channel 4 starting at 3:30 p.m. PST. . . . Arizona State Coach Steve Patterson recently had his contract extended through the 1986-87 season. So the former UCLA center is no longer an interim coach. . . . Arizona State is a guard-oriented team. Steve Beck has been particularly effective. He is averaging 13.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. . . . USC beat Arizona, 63-62, and Arizona State, 81-72, last month at the Sports Arena. . . . Stan Morrison said he is not planning any lineup changes. "We're not going to bail out with the guys who brought us to the dance," he said. Morrison said he will go with a smaller starting lineup tonight against ASU consisting of 6-6 Derrick Dowell and 6-7 Tom Lewis at forwards, 6-7 Hank Gathers at center and 5-11 Larry Friend and 6-4 Bo Kimble at guards. . . . Morrison said his team was physically and emotionally drained after its overtime loss to Washington State. "There were tears and frustration in the locker room," he said. "I felt badly for the players." . . . Four of USC's five starters are shooting below 50% in conference play. Lewis is at 43.5%, Kimble is 45.4%, Dowell is 48.3% and Friend is 38.1%. . . . Friend is second in the Pac-10 in assists, averaging 6.4 a game. Dowell is the league's No. 2 rebounder, averaging 8.9.