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Energy shortage hurts the Trojans

Lack of depth shows as they lose for fourth straight time to the Ducks, 61-51.

February 12, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC guard Maurice Jones splits the defense of Oregon forward Tyrone Nared (31) and guard Jonathan Loyd (10) for a layup Saturday night at the Galen Center.
USC guard Maurice Jones splits the defense of Oregon forward Tyrone Nared… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )

Every Friday, your average 9-to-5 worker is worn down and ready to punch out, thankful for a Saturday to kick back and chill.

USC knows the feeling — except for that last part.

Leading up to Saturdays, the Trojans too seem tuckered out as their seven-man roster looks dead-legged, usually from playing a game two days prior.

Which partly explains why more than half of USC's losses this season (seven) have come on Saturdays, with the Trojans' only wins coming in its season opener and after a six-day break between games.

USC's seventh loss came Saturday, in a 61-51 defeat by Oregon at the Galen Center in front of 4,421.

"Maybe we should move all our games to Sunday or Friday," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said, half-joking.

Perhaps or maybe Thursday too, since USC is a combined 8-1 on those days.

The loss is the fourth straight to Oregon for USC (13-12, 5-7 in the Pacific 10 Conference).

The Ducks (13-12, 6-7) beat USC last month in the inaugural game at Matthew Knight Arena, 68-62.

USC, which moves to eighth in the league standings, trailed by as many as 20 in that game before a comeback fell short.

The Trojans again fell behind by double digits Saturday, as many as 15, and fired three-point shots to try keep up.

That didn't work, as USC missed 16 of 19 shots from deep, most coming on wide-open looks.

"You're obviously not going to win many games shooting the ball like we did," O'Neill said.

Fatigue?

"I'd like to make that excuse, but to me, there's no excuse to be made," O'Neill said. "If you don't get the job done, you don't get the job done."

Junior forward Nikola Vucevic did his best to keep USC close, finishing with 22 points and 16 rebounds, his Pac-10 leading 14th double-double.

But, as is often the case for USC this season, he was a one-man show, with scant help from his teammates, who combined to shoot 10 for 35.

"I'd rather have 10 points and the rest of the guys have 10 points too and us get a win than me have 30 points every game and keep losing," Vucevic said. "It's a team game, so we have to balance our scoring."

The Ducks were led by 14 points from guard Malcolm Armstead, who routinely drove the lane for open layups.

"We tried to stop them from penetrating, because that's what they do," Vucevic said. "We would do a good job for 20 seconds, but then the last 15 we would let them score."

USC took a big hit early — a 6-foot-10, 250-pound one, to be exact — when senior forward Alex Stepheson picked up two fouls early in the first half. The toll showed quickly when Stepheson picked up his second foul, Oregon Coach Dana Altman substituted five fresh players to replace all his starters.

O'Neill could do no such thing this season and could only watch as Oregon's deep bench would outscore his shallow one, 24-13.

The Trojans next head to the Bay Area, where they were swept last season by Stanford and California.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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