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USC BASKETBALL

Team meeting helps Trojans clear the air

The players and coaches express their feelings after four losses in five games and altercation between Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis. "We let everything out," Hackett says.

February 25, 2009|Chris Foster

USC players held a team meeting Monday in an effort to work through problems they have had on and off the court.

The Trojans have lost four of their last five games, with their frustration underscored by a heated argument between Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis after a 60-51 loss Saturday to Washington.

Hackett and Lewis apologized to the team, but discussions in the meeting went beyond the incident.

"It helped us understand how guys feel inside themselves," Hackett said. "We let everything out. Each guy on this team poured out their goals and poured out how they felt about others. It was beautiful."

Hackett, Lewis, Taj Gibson and Keith Wilkinson were the main speakers, as the Trojans tried to focus on regaining traction in the Pacific 10 Conference. The sixth-place Trojans play at California on Thursday and at Stanford on Saturday.

Gibson's talk had a particular impact on players, as he said that they should look at playing at USC as a privilege.

"Taj is a real honest guy and someone to look up to," freshman Leonard Washington said. "If he says something, it sticks to me like glue. We realize we have to go out here and play like a team."

Those present said that players were able to "clear the air" about issues. Coaches and staff were also part of the meeting.

"We solved the problems within the locker room, just like any other team," Hackett said. "You could see the honesty in guys' eyes."

A three-peat?

California's 44.2% three-point field-goal percentage leads the nation. The Trojans, though, extend their defensive pressure and California made only two of 16 three-point shots in a 73-62 USC victory the first time the teams met.

"That's what they do, they pick the people they don't want to beat them," California Coach Mike Montgomery said. "They are athletic enough to do it. It's a modified triangle-and-two."

USC opponents have made five of 41 three-pointers in the last three games.

Johnson practices

Marcus Johnson, who has missed the last five games because of a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, practiced for the first time in two weeks but was limited.

"He did not do one thing with his right hand all day," Floyd said. "Based on what I saw today, it won't happen. Every shot was left-handed, every dribble was left-handed. I just don't see it."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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