SAN DIEGO — The University of San Diego basketball team, which could have put to rest four games' worth of frustration with just one basket in the closing moments against St. Mary's Wednesday night, found out instead that losing streaks sometimes aren't that easy to end.
Even though the Toreros held St. Mary's without a point for 7:26 in the second half and held a lead during the second half for the first time in West Coast Athletic Conference play this season, USD still lost, 41-40, in front of 1,466 at the USD Sports Center.
The game came down to a final possession, and both Marty Munn and Danny Means missed shots in the final nine seconds as USD (8-10 overall and 0-5 in conference) lost its fifth straight. St. Mary's is 11-5 and 3-2.
Afterward, Coach Hank Egan walked in circles in the USD dressing room, frustrated by this latest setback and his team's inability to execute after Al Lewis made a three-point jumper to put St. Mary's ahead, 41-40, with 25 seconds remaining.
USD had the ball out of bounds with nine seconds remaining, and Egan called a play for Means, but it never materialized. The Toreros got the ball to Munn in the right corner for a three-point shot, but he was hardly the player USD wanted shooting.
Munn, who made only 1 of 10 shots in the game to continue a recent shooting slump, was long with his shot, and the ball was tipped out toward center court by St. Mary's center Dan Curry. Means ran it down but his 35-footer at the buzzer hardly had a chance.
"What we designed (for the final play) nobody ran," Egan said.
Said Means: "Evidently, I ran the wrong play." He then walked out of the locker room.
This latest loss upset Means, who had been the main reason USD was able to rally from a 35-27 deficit in the final 11 minutes.
Means, who finished with a game-high 22 points, hit a three-point jumper that ended a 9-0 run and gave USD a 36-35 lead with 4:18 left. His two-pointer snapped a 38-38 tie at the 45-second mark. His 15 second-half points were only one fewer than USD scored in the entire first half.
But the losing streak continues for USD, which plays St. Mary's again Saturday night in Moraga.
Both teams opened Wednesday's game playing sagging zone defenses. Nobody could hit from outside, so the game was scoreless for more than four minutes. Midway through the first half, however, Lewis hit three three-pointers to help St. Mary's take a 21-16 halftime lead.