The supposedly brightest college basketball star in town glittered upon a nationally fourth-ranked team Thursday night.
If the kid's brief pause here is going to be worth it, this was the night it would all start paying off, with USC against Washington State, the freshman lifting a young team and igniting a lukewarm fan base.
You ask me, it's not working.
The Galen Center had empty seats. The Trojans had big problems. And O.J. Mayo probably won't be around long enough to learn and grow and fix any of it.
USC lost to Washington State, 73-58, in a game whose brilliance came not from this summer's projected top-five NBA draft pick, but from a bunch of guys who looked as if they were herded off an intramural court.
Washington State knows how to pass. USC still isn't sure.
Washington State knows how to play team defense. USC is still struggling with the notion.
Washington State, unbeaten in 14 games, played like the juniors and seniors that they are.
USC, loser of its first three Pacific 10 Conference games, played like the freshmen and sophomore and temps -- Mayo -- that they are.
The stat of the night? In a game that featured seemingly a zillion Washington State passes on every possession, USC had zero steals.
Tim Floyd, the Trojans coach who will spend this winter with his shirt untucked and his hands full, said Washington State was a team to emulate.
"Hopefully we'll get to that point sometime when these kids are here," he said.
The problem, of course, is that his best kid will be here for only a couple of more months.
Such is the beast of a beauty like O.J. Mayo.
"Yeah, we're hoping it's this year," Floyd said. "That's the idea."
Mayo, who scored a game-high 22 points and team-high seven rebounds, is fun to watch, but so what?
Mayo fills up the seats behind the basket with NBA scouts, but so far, he has proved only one thing.
College basketball is still bigger than the kids who play it.
College basketball is still more about team than talent.
College basketball is still about substance over show.
"Mayo is great," said one NBA scout as he walked away, shaking his head. "But did you see that other team?"
It's actually a nice message, as long as you weren't one of those booing or grumbling or leaving campus early on this dud of a Thursday night.
"It's not all about one person," Mayo said afterward with a frown. "We're all not very happy right now."
But the USC attack does seem to be about one person, with the young Trojans seemingly deferring to Mayo at certain points of the game, standing around and waiting for their star to do something special.
Floyd disagreed, saying, "We did a lot of standing around tonight, but we weren't standing there watching O.J."
Daniel Hackett, the other Trojans guard, also disagreed, saying, "They packed the defense in on us. I guess we need to learn to cut."
Much of what happened to USC on Thursday night was caused by USC.
With 17:28 remaining, Taj Gibson's layup pulled the Trojans to within 30-29.
But while Washington State continued working the ball and the clock and USC's patience, the Trojans offense did different sorts of things in the ensuing long minutes.
Mayo missed a shot and was outhustled for a rebound.
Two Trojans were outhustled for a loose ball that became a steal.
Another steal. A travel. Somebody stepped on the back line.
Mayo threw a bad pass, then, on the next possession, ran over a Cougar in a wild charge.
Mayo left the game, at which point Gibson threw a bad pass.
With 8:16 left, the Trojans were down by 14 points and the game was essentially over.
In Floyd's two previous seasons here, his teams always played smart.
This young team isn't like that.
It has been Floyd's trademark to turn good talent into sparkling teamwork.
So far this year, the players aren't always responding.
It was made worse for the Trojans on Thursday when Davon Jefferson, their second-leading scorer, was benched for the entire game because Floyd said he "didn't make the cut."
Like I said, the good coach has his hands full.
Bottom line, the Trojans were much more fun to watch last year before O.J. Mayo arrived.
And they will probably be more fun to watch next year when O.J. Mayo is gone.
Unless, of course, he decides to stick it out here for another year to improve his game and his team.
But, hey, that wouldn't be Hollywood. That would be Washington State.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.