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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
USC falls to Stanford, 54-53

By Pedro Moura

USC fell just short Wednesday night in Palo Alto despite a whirlwind comeback in the final minutes, falling 54-53 to Stanford and snapping an eight-game winning streak.

Down 53-46 with 1:04 remaining, the Trojans got a jumper from Dwight Lewis, a steal, another Lewis jumper and a Leonard Washington 3-pointer mixed in with three missed free throws from Stanford to tie the game at 53 with 32 seconds left.

But Washington committed an ill-advised reaching foul on the opposite end, and Stanford's Jarrett Mann converted one free throw with 11 seconds remaining to give the Cardinal a 54-53 lead.

With no timeouts, USC (10-5, 2-1) was forced to push the ball up the court immediately. The Trojans had three shots at it — a Mike Gerrity layup and attempted tip-ins by Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson — but none went in, and the Maples Pavilion crowd went crazy.

In the end, the Trojans didn't lose because of what they gave up to the Cardinal — they lost because they couldn't produce enough offense.

Lewis had a game-high 22 points on an impressive 9-of-15 performance from the field, but other USC starters came up empty. Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Nikola Vucevic —three of the team's four leading scorers — totaled nine points.

Gerrity couldn't beat Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins' zone defense and had a horrid game, offensively and defensively. Truthfully, the Trojans looked just as unorganized as they had in losses to Loyola Marymount and Nebraska — games they played without Gerrity.

The Cardinal gave up 92 points last weekend to Bay Area-rival Cal, but the Trojans found no similar success.

Marcus Simmons played very well as a defensive stopper for the Trojans, stopping Stanford forward Landry Fields cold in the second half. But Vucevic couldn't stop Cardinal post man Andrew Zimmermann, and nobody could stop Jeremy Green, who put up 17 points.

Fields still managed 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Stanford (7-7, 1-1). Zimmermann added 10 points.

Boneheaded plays plagued the Trojans on Wednesday. Other than Washington's late foul, USC also stepped out of bounds four times on the offensive end -- including one in the final two minutes by Marcus Johnson.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill was visibly displeased with his team on multiple occasions and looked more like the furious O'Neill of years past than the somewhat happy version we've seen so far this season.

Suffice it to say, USC has a lot of work to do. And the lack of a postseason as motivation isn't going to help.

Now, the Trojans must face a talented Cal team in Berkeley on Saturday night. The Bears lost to UCLA 76-75 in overtime Wednesday night.

We'll have live blogs for Saturday's contest as well.