YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


USC sputters to a loss against Oregon State, 49-44

Trojans shoot just 29% and lose final home game on senior day.

February 28, 2010|By Baxter Holmes

A beat-up junker with four flat tires and an engine sputtering on its last miles rolled into the Galen Center on Saturday.

It stalled for 40 minutes on hardwood, souring its own pregame senior day festivities adorned with the traditional roses, sobs, applause and framed jerseys.

And, after mustering something of an effort before the final buzzer mercilessly ended a hideous basketball game, USC, the junker, stopped. Final score: Oregon State 49, USC 44, before a crowd of 6,158.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neil, who has said his team is tired, seemed unsure if fatigue was to blame this time.

"I can't even tell anymore," he said. "Tired is not an excuse for 20 turnovers. Tired is not an excuse for shooting 29%. It's who we are."

Its identity: a hodgepodge group gutted by players who left early (three) and recruits who never showed (five), of Division I transfers (three) who were thrust into new roles and of a shallow bench that required four players to average at least 32 minutes a game.

Its trademark: defense and an inability to score.

Both traits were again evident Saturday.

USC (16-12 overall, 8-8 in Pacific 10 Conference) struggled mightily for the third consecutive game against a zone defense, this time Oregon State's trapping 1-3-1.

USC had 20 turnovers and fired 51 field goals, making 15. Against Washington State a week ago, USC put up 47 points and made 17 of 44 shots; on Thursday against Oregon, it scored 44 and made 19 of 58.

In the three games, USC had a combined 51 turnovers. And against all three teams this year, USC is 0-6.

"The zones we've been coming against have just been active, getting in the passing lanes and contesting shots and making us do a lot of turnovers," said guard Dwight Lewis, who scored 11 points in his final USC home game.

The Trojans played poorly, but Oregon State (13-15, 7-9) wasn't much better, making 18 of 45 shots. Yet the difference was points off turnovers: The Beavers had 19, USC had nine.

Admitting they're tired has been difficult for USC players. But forward Nikola Vucevic did so Saturday.

"We did feel a little tired and we don't have that many rotations so as time accumulated, we get worn out and we can't keep up the same intensity for 40 minutes," he said.

For USC's senior starters -- Lewis, Mike Gerrity and Marcus Johnson -- it was not the senior day ending they hoped for.

"Definitely not the way I envisioned going out," Gerrity said.

The ceremony was held before the game. Lewis, USC's all-time leader in games played (131), was given three drawings by Athletic Director Mike Garrett's family, one from Garrett's wife and two from his children.

"I didn't even know they knew my name," Lewis said.

O'Neill later said the festivities didn't affect his team, but he did say his preference from now on will be to hold them after the game.

Now, with two games left, USC has only pride to play for. California beat Arizona State on Saturday, ending USC's slim hopes of earning a share of the conference title, but O'Neill told his team Thursday those hopes were unrealistic.

"I told them Thursday we were done, it ain't happening," he said.

USC has defeated both Arizona schools at home this season; they'll now try to finish that on the road. "Nobody wants to end the season a loser," Lewis said.

He added: "Maybe we can mess something up for somebody else." Beating Arizona State would do that, keeping the Sun Devils from a possible share of the league title.

"I guess that's our job now, to get that win," he said.


Los Angeles Times Articles