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Trojans are left red-faced in 42-36 loss to Cal Poly SLO

Well, at least some of them, according to Coach Kevin O'Neill, who says he is embarrassed. Some of the players, he says, probably blame him for the setback.

November 19, 2011|By Diane Pucin

Calling himself embarrassed and saying some of his team felt the same way, USC men's basketball Coach Kevin O'Neill gave an emphatic thumbs down to the Trojans' 42-36 loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday in front of 2,606 who were appeared so bored at the Galen Center they were willing to wait in line for 20 minutes at the concession stand.

Better to hold out for a hot dog instead of a basket.

It was the fewest points scored by the Trojans since a 40-35 overtime loss to UCLA in 1967. It was the fewest points San Luis Obispo (2-1) has scored in a win since moving up to the NCAA Division I 18 years ago, and the fewest points the Mustangs have given up in that period.

As for being embarrassed, O'Neill said he was. And he said, "Our guys should be. About half of them are. The other," O'Neill paused for a moment, and said, "It's KO's fault. We all know how that goes."

O'Neill did give some credit to the Mustangs, who finished second in the Big West Conference last season behind Long Beach State.

"They deserved to win, they played better than we did," he said.

The Trojans (1-3) led, 20-13, at halftime. But even then, there were signs San Luis Obispo had a good plan with its matchup zone.

The Mustangs led 11-9 with 11 minutes 5 seconds left in the first half but from there they went scoreless for nearly 10 minutes and while it wasn't exactly an explosion on offense, the Trojans did score 11 straight points, including five straight from junior forward Aaron Fuller, who ended up with a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds.

But when forward David Hanson (12 points, eight rebounds) made two free throws with 5:37 to play, USC's lead was gone. The Trojans came back once more to lead, 35-33, on a jump shot and one free throw by Byron Wesley, but the Mustangs took the lead for good on a Hanson three-point basket with 1:26 left.

USC shot 31.6% from the field (12 of 38) and floor leader Maurice Jones was one of 11.

"Those weren't necessarily the shots I wanted," Jones said, "but they were ones I should make."

This was another win for a relatively local mid-major program. Already Loyola Marymount has beaten UCLA, Pepperdine has taken down Arizona State, and Long Beach State upset ranked Pittsburgh. Now San Luis Obispo has a signature win.

Coach Joe Callero, in his third season with the Mustangs, said this is his biggest win.

"We've played close to UCLA, close to Cal," Callero said, "but it's critical to pull it off, garner the win."

The Trojans, who have lost three games in a row, might feel the same way. At least the ones who aren't blaming O'Neill.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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