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STANFORD 75, USC 63

Another one gets away from USC

Trojans blow lead against Stanford and are longshots for an NCAA bid.

March 01, 2009|Chris Foster

PALO ALTO — USC's basketball players can take comfort in the fact that a clear path to the NCAA tournament now lies before them.

All they have to do is win the Pacific 10 Conference tournament. That seems undeniably clear after the Trojans put the "ugh" in "ug-ly" during a 75-63 loss to Stanford on Saturday.

The sights and sounds at Maples Pavilion were familiar.

The Trojans had a shot at winning, then watched the game flutter away when they blew an 11-point lead in the last 14 minutes. Coach Tim Floyd praised Stanford's effort, in what have become insert-the-opposing-team postgame comments.

"You've got to credit Stanford for how hard they played," he said.

You do. But, then, the Trojans (16-12, 7-9) have seemed to bring out the best in opponents the last month. Well, except Washington State, their only win in the last seven games.

It was only a month ago that they were at the top of the conference's food chain. Now they are keeping company with the bottom feeders, as Saturday's loss -- their fifth consecutive on the road -- left them in eighth place with two regular-season games remaining.

The whys and how-comes were left unanswered.

Effort?

"Coming out of the California game, we thought we played hard," Floyd said. "We played very hard against Washington, and the previous game we beat a pretty good Washington State team. We were tied with Arizona with under a minute left and didn't get it done. We were in the Arizona State game and didn't get it done."

Team chemistry?

Asked whether the Trojans were out of sync on and off the court, guard Daniel Hackett, who had a heated exchange with teammate Dwight Lewis a week ago, said, "I don't speak about off-the-court stuff. I talk about the game. On the court we're fine, we're fighting. We just came up short again. I don't even know what to tell you."

Dazed-and-confused was the postgame mood. After all, there was nothing to indicate Stanford (16-11, 5-11) was anything but a get-well present through the first 26 minutes.

Lewis' layup gave USC a 46-35 lead . . . then . . .

"We lost our composure," said Taj Gibson, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with four minutes left.

And still hadn't regained it in the locker room. Hackett sat on the floor gazing intensely at the stat sheet.

The numbers were there.

USC was nine for 21 from the free-throw line. Stanford was 12 for 22 from beyond the three-point line.

The Trojans went four minutes without scoring, seeing a 54-48 lead turn into a 60-54 deficit with 6:14 left. They then went another four minutes without a point, as the Cardinal lead grew to 15 points.

Floyd handled the team psyche, saying Stanford "picked up the pressure. . . . It rattled us."

Hackett dealt with the facts: "You turn the ball over and don't play defense, you get beat. They out-boarded us (33-29), we got beat."

Still, hope springs eternal.

"We have to win the next two games at home, make something happen in the Pac 10 tournament," Hackett said. "Then we'll see what happens on Selection Sunday."

Unless the selection committee spots something fans at UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, California and Stanford missed, what will happen on Selection Sunday is the Trojans will be declared DOA and sent COD to the NIT . . .

. . . unless they win the conference tournament.

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

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