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USC REPORT

Stewart Hears Message

January 24, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

His production having fallen off considerably in the last five games, Lodrick Stewart met Monday afternoon with USC Coach Tim Floyd and Athletic Director Mike Garrett at Heritage Hall to discuss the funk that has seemed to affect him since early this month.

"Mike Garrett was like, 'Just step it up. We need you to come back,' " said Stewart, who considers the athletic director a father figure. "The last couple of games, they've seen a change in me, like something's bothering me. Nothing's been bothering me; I've just been real hard on myself the last couple of games with how I've been playing.

"They want me to step up. It's something I need to do for me and for us to win."

Stewart, who is averaging 12.2 points, scored four against Washington State on Jan. 14 and five against UCLA on Wednesday. Against the Bruins, the junior shooting guard attempted a season-low four shots.

"I'm passing up shots when I'm open. I've been second-guessing my shots," Stewart said. "I don't know why, but that's what I've been doing. The last couple of games I watched the tape and I was like, 'That's not me.' "

Stewart has averaged 8.6 points over USC's last five games and has seemed tentative on offense since rolling his ankle against Arizona State on Jan. 5.

"I still feel I could have played better even with the ankle injury," Stewart said. "It's all right now. It's still a little sore, but it's nothing to where I should be playing bad or nothing like that."

Stewart, who sat out the last two days because of an ear infection, is expected to return to practice today.

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Floyd said he was eager to find out how his Trojans (12-6 overall, 3-4 Pac-10) react this week to their 21-point loss to UCLA. USC plays at Oregon State on Thursday and at Oregon on Saturday.

"What's important is how we respond to that performance the other night and what kind of energy we can play with, what kind of toughness we can play with and what kind of poise we can play with," Floyd said. "Hopefully, if we do those things ... maybe a win can come as a result. Hopefully, that's the first night and then we can get the same thing the next night."

The Trojans and Beavers (10-8, 3-4) are tied for seventh in the conference, with the Ducks (10-9, 4-3) residing in a three-way tie for fourth with California and Stanford.

"We still believe we can be at the top of the standings with everybody else, so we're going in with the mind-set to sweep," sophomore swingman Nick Young said. "It would be two good wins for us on the road."

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Sophomore guard Gabe Pruitt bruised his right elbow during practice when he ran into a screen but was able to finish the session. "I should be all right," said Pruitt, who had the elbow wrapped in ice afterward. ... Terence Green, a 6-foot freshman guard who transferred from Irvine Valley College at the semester break, has joined the Trojans as a walk-on. Green, who played alongside UCLA freshman guard Michael Roll at Aliso Niguel High, will not be eligible to play until next season.

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