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USC has almost no shot in 51-47 loss to Washington State

Trojans' offense malfunctions yet again, as they shoot only 38% and fall to the Cougars at Pullman, Wash.

February 21, 2010|By Baxter Holmes

Reporting from Pullman, Wash. — Lost: USC's offense, last seen in Seattle, possibly left at baggage claim. Contact Trojans Coach Kevin O'Neill if found.

Then again, USC's offense has been missing all season, Saturday's 51-47 loss at Washington State just another example of what O'Neill calls an "offensively challenged" team searching for points in hidden places.

But USC (16-10 overall, 8-6 in the Pacific 10 Conference) couldn't find any out in the Palouse in front of 6,967 at Beasley Coliseum.

Multiple explanations existed; O'Neil started with selfishness.

"We played very selfishly . . . for the first time in a long time," he said. "I thought guys were worried about themselves a little bit too much, whether they were in the game or not."

Fatigue also may have been a culprit, since the Trojans poured considerable energy into Thursday's 67-64 win at Washington.

"We weren't tired," USC guard Mike Gerrity said. "We just weren't focused."

On that, O'Neill agreed.

"We never got down to playing basketball until the last three or four minutes," he said.

Which is when things got interesting.

Abe Lodwick hit a three-pointer that gave Washington State a 45-40 lead with 3 minutes 36 seconds left.

USC answered with consecutive jumpers to make it 45-44 with 1:29 to go.

Finally, the Cougars' Reggie Moore hit the shot of the game.

The shot clock was winding down with Moore dribbling at the top of the key, darting left for some room to shoot. He didn't find much, but with Gerrity on his right hip and Leonard Washington flying at him with his left hand, Moore fired.

The high-arching three-point shot hit the backboard and bounced in, and Washington State led, 48-44, with 51.4 seconds left.

"That's basketball, that's what happens," O'Neill said.

Because of missed free throws, the Trojans got another chance, trailing, 50-47, but Dwight Lewis missed a three-point attempt with 8.6 seconds left.

Lewis led USC with 14 points but was five for 13 from the field, where USC shot 19 for 50 and Washington State shot 17 for 44.

O'Neill said Washington State was "hungry for a win" after losing, 71-51, to UCLA on Thursday. The Cougars (16-11, 6-9) got that and the season series against USC.

Meanwhile, the Trojans are still in third place, but now are 1 1/2 games back of Pac-10 leader California with four games to play.

USC's defense won't need a tuneup. Saturday, it was its typical stout self, especially Lewis, who held Cougars star guard Klay Thompson to a career-low two points (0 for 12 from the field) and six turnovers.

Other areas will need tweaking, though. USC lost key battles Saturday in rebounding (37-28), second-chance points (15-9) and free-throw attempts (24-9).

Assistant coaches Phil Johnson and Bob Cantu can help with that when they return from Arizona, where they were scheduled to testify Saturday at USC's meeting with the NCAA's infractions committee.

They can ask for the full story from Marcus Johnson, who sat slumped in the locker room after the game, hands behind his head, a blank gaze on his face.

When asked what went wrong, he stared, then sighed.

"Low energy, low intensity," he said. "We were just scattered out there."

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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