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Monday, November 14, 2011
Basketball: Nebraska 64, USC 61 (2OT)

By Pedro Moura



LOS ANGELES -- At some point, certain things become a tradition.

There's usually a time element involved -- as in, do something enough times over a relatively short amount of time, and it's officially tradition.

For USC, giving up a late lead and losing to Nebraska is now officially tradition.

It's the third straight season the Trojans have let up on the Cornhuskers in the final minutes. In 2009, USC led 46-43 and then lost 51-48. In 2010, USC led 39-26 at the half and 55-52 with five minutes to play but lost 60-58.

And Monday, the Trojans led by four with two minutes left in regulation and by three with a minute left in the first overtime period before losing 64-61 in double overtime at the Galen Center.

As USC guard Maurice Jones pointed out afterward, only two Trojans who played in 2010 also played in 2011 -- and none of the '09ers stayed until 2011. But make no mistake about it: This is clearly a tradition, and one that USC obviously wants no part of.

"You've gotta value each possession," said USC forward Aaron Fuller, whose former school, Iowa, will now play Nebraska twice a year after the Huskers joined the Big Ten this year. "We had multiple times to win it and unfortunately we made costly mistakes and didn't do it."

Trailing 25-23 at halftime, USC played a smart second half to take control 47-45 with four-plus minutes left on a Jones 3-pointer, but Byron Wesley and Jones both split ensuing trips to the foul line and the Trojans didn't score after that.

In the first OT, Fuller scored three straight points but Nebraska got lucky with a 3-pointer bouncing in, and then the Huskers took a 5-point lead in the second extra period that the Trojans couldn't come back from.

"I feel like if we had just one or two more stops the outcome may have been different," Fuller said.

There were some positives, like the significantly decreased number of turnovers -- 11 Monday in 50 minutes of play after 20 Friday in 40 minutes against Cal State Northridge. And the Trojans (1-1) also hit seven 3-pointers after going 0-of-15 from deep against CSUN.

But, of course, they didn't get the positive they wanted.

"We did everything but win the game," O'Neill said.

Player of the game: Nebraska guard Bo Spencer was the best player on the floor with his game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The senior transfer from Louisiana State was a tough matchup for the Trojans as a well-sized point guard with passing and shooting skills. He also hit three 3-pointers as the Huskers actually shot better from beyond the 3-point line as a team than from inside.

"Spencer's a good player," O'Neill said. "He's a guy that's got size and experience. He's a fifth-year guy, (22) years old, so he's got a little bit of an advantage over some of our guys."

For USC, Fuller played the most efficient game, scoring 13 points on eight shots and also recording six rebounds.

Stat of the game: Jones shot 6-of-22 (27 percent) from the field. In the first half, he was just 1-of-8 from the field, and he was only 1-of-5 in the overtime periods.

But O'Neill said he was not upset with his point guard's shot selection.

"Not one bit," O'Neill said. "He probably took three bad shots at the beginning of the game, when he's settling for non-attacking stuff. I'm cool with everything he's doing. I don't have any choice -- what am I going to do, bench him?

"It's the way it is. He's still a sophomore and a developing player. He'll get better at doing that stuff."

Said Jones: "I usually make those shots. It was frustrating."

Trend of the game: Freshman guard Alexis Moore didn't start once again.

But, once again, he played the majority of minutes in the backcourt with Jones late. And this time he actually did well with them, hitting three 3-pointers on six attempts and finishing with 11 points and three assists in 41 minutes.

He got the third-most playing time on the team and also took the ball up the court on a few plays at various points throughout the game. O'Neill said he'll do that from time to time to create ready-made opportunities for Jones to take shots from an off-the-ball situation.

Quote of the game: "He got as lucky as you can get when that ball hit the crotch of the rim and dropped in for a three, but that's basketball." -- O'Neill

USC's head coach was peeved about the bounce that Spencer got on his 3-point attempt in the first overtime. Down 52-49 with 45 seconds left, Spencer threw up the shot from the left side and got a shooter's bounce off the rim for a basket.

Jones followed it with a runner with seven seconds to go before Nebraska tied it again on free throws, but

Fuller called it "homecourt advantage on our home court."

Notes: Sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon was in foul trouble for most of the game and finished with four points and four fouls in 28 minutes, although he did record his first double-digit rebound game. ... Former USC signee and Arizona Wildcat Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, was in attendance at the Galen Center. Williams now plays for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, although he has yet to sign a rookie contract because of the league's lockout. ... USC next plays San Diego State on the road on Thursday. The Trojans will practice Tuesday and do a quick shoot-around Wednesday before bussing two hours south in advance of the game.