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USC has almost no shot in loss to Oregon

Trojans have little hope of sharing title after missing 19 of 25 second-half attempts against the Ducks.

February 26, 2010|By Baxter Holmes

Help, USC needs somebody . . . Help, not just anybody . . .

No, to be specific, only help from California and Arizona State would do now for the Trojans -- that is, if they want to end their tumultuous season with an improbable league title win following Thursday's 54-44 loss to Oregon.

Before the loss, USC needed just to win out and have California lose one game to be assured at least a share of the title.

But now, the Trojans (16-11 overall, 8-7 in Pacific 10 Conference) need to win their last three games, have California lose its last two and have Arizona State lose two of its last three.

If that happens, all three teams would finish with a league record of 11 wins and seven losses, meaning all would win a share of the league title.

Then again, if USC doesn't improve its offense, which put up 12 points in the second half against Oregon, none of the above matters.

"You're not going to beat anybody scoring 12 points in a half. That's a plain and simple fact," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said.

Those points came in a half when USC missed 19 of 25 shots, including 13 from three-point range.

Oregon's 2-3 zone defense deserves credit, as it stretched USC's offense and didn't allow the Trojans to work the ball inside to forwards Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic.

Still, O'Neill said, his team settled for too many three-point attempts, a season-high 23 all told, only five of which went in.

"That's not going to win a whole lot of games when people are playing zone," he said.

USC was patient in the first half, made five of 10 from beyond the arc, and led 32-23 at intermission. Yet after halftime, the team had field-goal droughts of 9 minutes 45 seconds and another drought of 6:19 that lasted until the end of the game.

In all, the team shot 19 of 58 (33%) from the floor, and was out-attempted from the free-throw line, 24 to five.

"We just didn't come out with any oomph at all," O'Neill said.

Oregon (13-14, 5-10) ended a five-game losing streak and took the season series with USC.

But call these small victories for Ducks Coach Ernie Kent, who probably already has his office packed in cardboard boxes since it's all but a certainty he'll be fired come season's end.

Kent has been more vocal in recent weeks about deserving to keep his post, which he has held for 13 years, but with the Ducks sitting near the bottom of one of the worst Pac-10 leagues in years -- maybe ever -- the grapevine is busy with talk of replacements.

Replacements might help USC at this point, though.

"Our team, in my estimation, has started to wear down a little bit, and it showed tonight," O'Neill said. "It showed in the Washington State game, it showed tonight. Mike Gerrity in particular looks like he's wearing down."

Gerrity seemed to agree.

"Sure, I don't think I necessarily want to believe that because we're competitors and we want to win," he said.

With three games left and the team's goal of winning a conference title, or at least a share of it, largely in the hands of other teams, that is indeed all the team can do.

"We've got three games left," O'Neill said. "We need to play our butts off and play the best we can in all three games."


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