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USC's free-throw struggles are costing the team wins

The Trojans, who have lost six games by six points or fewer, are shooting 60% from the free-throw line, the worst mark in the Pac-12. USC faces Stanford on Saturday.

December 30, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • Byron Wesley isn't the only USC player struggling from the free-throw line this season.
Byron Wesley isn't the only USC player struggling from the free-throw… (Paul Battaglia / Associated…)

USC has been quite generous this holiday season. Specifically, the Trojans keep giving games away at the free-throw line.

USC is shooting a Pac-12 worst 60% from the line, and that statistic stings the Trojans even more because they've lost six games by six points or fewer.

USC (5-9, 0-1 in conference play) missed 36 free throws in those six losses.

Missed free throws again cost USC in its 53-49 loss at California on Thursday in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

In a game it never led, USC missed its first six free throws and converted on just eight of 17 chances in the game.

"When it gets right down to it, individuals have to make free throws," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said by telephone Friday.

It sounds easy, but for USC, which plays at Stanford (11-2, 1-0) on Saturday, it hasn't been. The Trojans rank No. 332 out of 345 Division I teams nationally in free-throw percentage.

It's not that USC isn't getting to the line. The Trojans have shot 228 free throws compared with 227 for their opponents.

"We definitely know that free throws are a huge part," said freshman guard Byron Wesley, who is shooting 47% (14 for 30) from the line. "It just comes down to us being mentally strong enough to make these free throws and we're going to have to do that.

"I don't really know how to describe how we're missing free throws, but it's something we can fix and we have to fix."

The biggest positive of the Cal game was that the Trojans pulled down a season-high 18 offensive rebounds — all but three by USC's centers or forwards.

"I thought it was their best effort together," O'Neill said.

USC has a big front line with Dewayne Dedmon (7 feet, 255 pounds), James Blasczyk (7-1, 260) and Aaron Fuller (6-6, 235), but the trio has been inconsistent.

"They're maturing as a group," O'Neill said. "In three of the last four games, I think our bigs have really played hard and done a really good job."

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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