Gabe Pruitt, USC's second-leading scorer, suffered a bone bruise during practice Monday and is expected to be sidelined for at least two games.
Pruitt, a shooting guard averaging 17.0 points a game, underwent an MRI exam and X-rays and will be examined today by team physicians C. Thomas Vangsness and James Tibone. He is not expected to need surgery but was using crutches Monday evening.
The loss of Pruitt, the Trojans' top three-point shooter, for Pacific 10 Conference games Thursday at Washington and Saturday at Washington State would be a major setback for a team with little depth.
"It's a tremendous blow to our team, there's no doubt about it, but it will provide another opportunity for somebody else," Coach Tim Floyd said. "I'm sad for Gabe because he had been playing so well, and I'm sad for our team because it will be a big adjustment for us."
The 6-foot-4 sophomore went up for a layup and landed awkwardly after colliding with teammate Nick Young. Pruitt was helped off the court by teammates.
"It doesn't hurt that bad," said Pruitt, who had averaged 25.7 points over his last three games to pull just behind Young, the Trojans' leading scorer at 17.1 a game. "A little throbbing."
"He has some swelling in his knee that's an indicator of a bone bruise," said team trainer Mark Pocinich. "Hopefully by midday we should have a final reading and kind of a game plan for how significant it is."
Freshman shooting guard Sead Odzic, who recently started his first two collegiate games while junior guard Lodrick Stewart recovered from an ear infection, could supplant Pruitt in the starting lineup, though Floyd was noncommittal.
"Everybody's got to step up," Stewart said. "If he can't play these next couple of weeks, we're going to have to step up and find some way to win. It would be a big blow for our team because we're trying to make this run so we can have a chance to go to the [NCAA] tournament, and he plays a major part on our team."
Pruitt posted several of his best performances over a recent stretch in which the Trojans, 15-7 overall and 6-5 in the Pac-10, won three of four games to move into a tie with Arizona for fourth place in the conference.
He scored 30 points on eight-for-12 shooting on Jan. 28 during USC's 84-78 victory over Oregon, which ended a six-game losing streak against the Ducks. He scored 25 points and had a career-high seven steals Thursday during the Trojans' 77-70 victory over Arizona, then scored 22 points Saturday during USC's 68-65 loss to Arizona State.
"I felt I could have played better or done a little more," said Pruitt, who took all 13 of his shots from beyond the three-point arc against the Sun Devils. "This last game I was just a three-point shooter."
Pruitt's mishap was not the first serious injury sustained in a non-game situation by a Trojan this season. Freshman forward RouSean Cromwell has been sidelined since breaking his right foot Dec. 23 when he stepped on a ball in pregame warmups. Cromwell is expected to begin practicing soon and could return Feb. 23 when USC plays host to Oregon at the Sports Arena.
Pruitt should have a better idea about his timetable today.
"It's pretty tough," he said. I hate missing games. It's just going to be tough for me to wait this one out."