The halfway point of USC's postseason-denied conference basketball season is here -- and some Trojans were happy to apply something of a midterm grade to the team, which is 12-9 overall and 4-5 in Pacific 10 Conference play.
Senior guard Dwight Lewis wasn't lenient: C-minus. "I don't think we've put too many whole games together," he said.
Fellow senior Mike Gerrity was a tad more generous: B-minus. "I think we've had some good spurts along the way," he said.
Coach Kevin O'Neill gave his team an "A" for effort, the only category he cares about.
"If we keep giving good effort, we'll win our share of games," he said.
But there's a caveat to this halfway mark: No postseason awaits the team, no matter its second-half record.
When the scoreboard clock strikes triple zeros in USC's final game at Arizona on March 6, the season is over because of a university-imposed postseason ban relating to allegations surrounding former star O.J. Mayo.
"We need to play every game," O'Neill said he told his team. "We have nine of them left, 18 hours to play together in uniforms. We need to play every game like it's our last."
Quite literally, he means. But in a down year for the Pac-10, the Trojans are only two games out of first place.
"There is a sense of urgency, especially in the second half if we want to make a run for first place in the conference," Gerrity said.
At last count
About a week ago, Lewis was being interviewed when he paused and called over to Gerrity, "How old are you, Mike?"
Gerrity, who at 23 is the team's oldest player, laughed. He gets that a lot. He started shaving in the eighth grade, after all.
But tonight, Lewis (who is 22) will play old-timer. He will become USC's all-time leader in games played -- 125.
"It's cool," Lewis said of the chance to pass Brandon Glanville (1999-2002) for the record. "It's a good honor to have, playing at a place like this."
O'Neill said records come down to winning: "The more you win, the more you get."
And said the elder statesman Gerrity, who has played for three colleges in five years: "I feel like he's been around just as long as I have. I thought we came into college together, to be honest."
Wear and tear
The Trojans are wearing down, and O'Neill won't deny it.
Four of his five starters average at least 30 minutes: Lewis (35), Gerrity (36.3), Nikola Vucevic (34) and Marcus Johnson (31.9). Alex Stepheson isn't far off, playing 27.9 minutes.
The only substitutes who play regularly are Leonard Washington (20.9), Donte Smith (17.8) and Marcus Simmons (17.6).