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Another USC heartbreaker

1/7/2010

PALO ALTO, Calif. - USC's chaotic week is only halfway over, and fittingly, their game Wednesday night ended in a mad scramble.

Bodies flew, tip-in attempts failed, the buzzer sounded, and the scoreboard read Stanford 54, USC 53.

Nikola Vucevic pulled his jersey over his head in frustration. Leonard Washington sprawled on the court, his face buried in his hands.

On Sunday morning, the Trojan players learned that there would be no postseason. Tonight, in a battle between the teams slotted ninth and 10th in the preseason Pac-10 media poll, USC didn't look very NCAA-tournament-like anyway.

Coach Kevin O'Neill offered no excuses.

"For me, the news (of self-imposed sanctions) had nothing to do with this game," he said. "It's unfathomable to me that we would play like we did in the first half.

"I thought we had a total lack of effort in the first half. We were awful."

The Trojans woke up with 66 seconds left in the game, when they trailed by seven points. Improbably, with 32 seconds to go, they tied the game.

But with 10.6 seconds left and USC looking to force overtime, Washington fouled Jarrett Mann on a reach-in with his team in the double-bonus.

Mann missed the first free throw and made the second.

Mike Gerrity tried a runner to win it, and by the time the scrum under the basket was over, USC's eight-game winning streak had ended.

The good news?

It's hump day.