USC Coach Kevin O'Neill keeps searching for answers with his inexperienced… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)
A torrent of losses has flooded USC's record.
The surge doesn't figure to slow down any time soon, either.
The Trojans, with a record of 5-11 overall and 0-3 in Pac-12 play, have lost seven of eight, are the only conference team without a league win and few games remain on their schedule that appear to be sure wins.
For Coach Kevin O'Neill, whose team faces Arizona (10-5, 1-1) on Sunday at the Galen Center, the challenge is keeping the ever-growing load of frustration from affecting his players.
"I worry about our players and how they handle it, on and off the court, because I don't want it to affect their school or any of that stuff," he said Saturday.
He takes what he calls a "professional approach" with them.
"I've just told our guys, we all have a job to do," he said. "Their job is to play, my job is to coach and our job is to try to improve every day."
But as a coach, O'Neill has preached numerous lessons to his players that haven't seemed to sink in — lessons such as playing with energy early in games, a season-long issue.
"We're young, inexperienced and leaderless," he said, trying to explain the communication gap.
"That's a very bad combination for a basketball team."
Is anyone stepping up as a leader?
"No, not really," he said.
O'Neill added that while guard Maurice Jones is the team's lone returning starter, he's really more of a "Robin than a Batman."
Among most players, the answer is a simple "I'm not sure" as to why the Trojans continue to lose.
"We've got to figure out what's going wrong and how we can fix it," center Dewayne Dedmon said.
Focusing on inside game
UCLA's 6-foot-10 forwards Travis Wear and David Wear combined for 34 points against Arizona in the Bruins' 65-58 win Thursday night.
Expect USC to try to take advantage of Arizona with its inside players, too.
"We're just going to try to go inside and bang their bigs a little bit early," Dedmon said. "Once you start out going inside, it opens everything up."
O'Neill was suspended the last time Arizona and USC played, during the league tournament in March, because of his involvement in an altercation with an Arizona booster in a downtown Los Angeles hotel lobby.
The Wildcats won that game, which was in the semifinals, while O'Neill watched from his apartment a few blocks away.