Sunday, January 8, 2012
Basketball: Arizona 57, USC 46
By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- They don't make shots, they don't defend well enough to win, and their free-throw shooting is abysmal.
You can combine those factors to come to a fairly easy conclusion about this year's USC Trojans basketball team. Or, if you're head coach Kevin O'Neill, you can sum it up in one succinct sentence courtesy of legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight: These Trojans won't be going to the senior prom.
"Bob Knight actually told me this one time," O'Neill said after Sunday's game, a loss. "When you make shots, you look pretty. You're the prom queen. When you don't, you don't get invited to the prom.
"And that's it."
It sure is. USC (5-12, 0-4 in the Pac-12) isn't getting invited to the prom this season -- not after a fifth-straight loss, this one by a 57-46 score to Arizona at the Galen Center. The Wildcats were in control all game in Sunday's matinee, never leading by fewer than double-digits once the game got going. USC put together a small, short run in the second half, getting within 10 points, but Arizona quickly squashed that with an and-one on the subsequent possession and two more baskets to follow.
Arizona's Jesse Perry led all scorers with 20 points, with no Trojan defender capable of matching his energy and inside-outside game. Former USC commit Solomon Hill had 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in 26 minutes, and Kyle Fogg also had 10 for the Wildcats, who are now 11-5 on the year and 2-1 in the Pac-12.
Maurice Jones had 14 points on 13 shots to lead USC but no assists and three turnovers. As a team, the Trojans shot a season-low 29 percent, including a miraculously bad 21 percent in the first half. The starting backcourt of Jones, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley -- made eight of the 36 shots they attempted.
"I don't know how to explain it," O'Neill said. "It's ugly to watch."
Player of the game: Forward Dewayne Dedmon is slowly but surely blossoming into the player O'Neill hinted he could be before this season. He's not the force some expected him to be, and he continually struggles with foul trouble, but Dedmon played quite well the last two games.
In 21 minutes Sunday night, he recorded 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Everybody else struggled offensively for USC; Dedmon shot a normal 4-of-8 from the field. The problem, of course, is that he couldn't start the second half because he had already accumulated three fouls. So there are still growing pains, sure -- but he's no longer completely invisible on the court, like he was at times earlier in the year.
"I think everybody thought he was going to be a lottery pick, but he's not," O'Neill said of Dedmon on Sunday. "If he could be a first-round pick in two years, that'd be wonderful. But it's gonna take him some time."
Stat of the game: Twelve of the 15 3-pointers the Trojans attempted in Sunday's game qualify as wide-open 3's according to the team's charting system.
Of those 12, USC converted exactly one. The Trojans hit none of the other three for a seven-percent day from 3.
"I like our shots. We're getting a lot of open looks," O'Neill said. "You're hoping at some point they'll start to fall.
"That would be the nicest thing in the world."
Arizona wasn't much better. The Wildcats hit two of 15 3-point attempts, good for a 13-percent clip.
Quote of the game: "These guys will end up having lots of success, but probably not this year." -- O'Neill
Speaking about three first-year players -- Dedmon, Wesley and Moore -- O'Neill admitted for the first time that this season is a lost cause. It's not like we haven't known for some time now. But O'Neill's tone in the postgame press conference was a bit different Sunday, as he mentioned rebuilding a number of times and brought up how the Trojans were going to focus on "individual" work over the season's final two months.
Translation: Next year is the key now. And the goal is to get the players on this year's team who are returning next year in tip-top shape. That means the priority will be on young players from here on out.
Final notes: At 0-4, USC continues to be the only Pac-12 team to not a win a conference game. Utah's overall record of 4-11 is still worse than the Trojans' 5-12 mark, but even the Utes upset Washington State on Thursday...Although Sunday's game was broadcast live on Fox Sports West, the curtains at the Galen Center were kept open from the opening tip on, illuminating the arena throughout the game...Forward Aaron Fuller played only 11 minutes because of lingering shoulder pain and did not leave the bench in the second half.