USC: Eric Strangis

Basketball: Washington 80, USC 58

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
11:06
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Almost everything about the USC basketball team's 2011-2012 season has been a full-fledged disappointment, from the Trojans' 6-24 record to the injuries that have ravaged the squad to downright embarrassing attendance numbers at the Galen Center.

Then there's freshman Byron Wesley, who continues to be the lone bright spot in a very dark canvas. The 6-5 guard set another career-high on Thursday in the Trojans' 80-58 loss to Washington, scoring a game-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

"If there's anything good about our season," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said after Thursday's game, "it's that this guy is really becoming a guy that's going to be hard to reckon with going forward in this league."

Wesley could now finish the season averaging double-digit points per game with strong performances in the regular-season finale against Washington State on Saturday and the Pac-12 tourney.

In his first five games, the Rancho Cucamonga native averaged 4.2 points per game. In his last five, he's putting up 18.4. He's also shooting 51 percent (37 of 72 attempts) in his last five compared to 27 percent (9 of 33) in his first five.

It's not hard to see the improvement.

Said O'Neill: "He is taking advantage of his opportunity, and good players do that."

Forward Garrett Jackson added 14 points for the Trojans. Washington's Terrence Ross led the Huskies with 18 points and forward Darnell Gant, an L.A. native, had 14 and a game-high nine rebounds.

Player of the game: Wesley was clearly USC's top performer; center James Blasczyk did have a career-high 10 points but only added three rebounds in his 33 minutes.

"This guy's becoming a premier player in this league," O'Neill said of Wesley.

Ross shot 8-of-13 from the field on his way to his 18 points. O'Neill said he looked at him as a prototypical NBA shooting guard, as long as he continued to improve his defense.

A sophomore, Ross is rated by most NBA draft prognosticators as a likely first-round selection in June's NBA draft if he chooses to declare.

Stat of the game: Washington (21-8, 14-3 in the Pac-12) out-rebounded the Trojans 49-23, the 16th-straight time USC has been out-rebounded this season.

"We miss so many shots that people get a lot of defensive rebounds," O'Neill said. "They're bigger and stronger than us. We don't have the capability to out-rebound people this year."

The last time the Trojans had more rebounds than an opponent was December 29 on the road against Cal, when they somehow produced 38 rebounds to the Bears' 25.

Quote of the game: "Kevin O'Neill is a testament to good coaching. They have one game left and have lost a lot of tough games and he is still fighting. He has been fighting all season." -- Washington coach Lorenzo Romar

His Huskies locked up a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title on Thursday, but it was interesting that Romar took time to praise O'Neill's coaching abilities in his postgame press conference. The two men have been complementary of each other in their three shared years in the conference.

Final notes: Attendance at the Galen Center was announced at 2,763, the lowest-ever number for a Pac-12 game in the history of the facility...With Senior Day on Saturday, O'Neill said he might start his lone senior -- walk-on guard Eric Strangis -- in the 3 p.m. contest against Washington State. For that game, the first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a Maurice Jones bobblehead...With a 1-16 Pac-12 record, the Trojans are now locked into the No. 12 seed for the Pac-12 tourney, meaning they will play the No. 5-seeded team at 2:30 p.m. PT next Wednesday.

Basketball: USC 66, CSUN 59

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
12:18
AM PT


LOS ANGELES -- He looked around the arena, soaking it all in, and gave his one of wide-mouthed smiles. He had the look of a man ready to start off a season.

But, inside, Dewayne Dedmon was freaking out.

Just before tip-off of USC's 2011-2012 season opener against Cal State Northridge on Friday at the Galen Center, Dedmon, the Trojans' 7-foot sophomore forward, tensed up for a second and realized what he was about to do.

In seconds, he'd officially be starting a game for the USC Trojans and getting his basketball career truly underway. He's played at other places -- a few minutes here and there in high school and as a post presence but little else for one season in junior college -- but never before was he counted on in such a big way.

Dedmon knew how important he was to his team's success -- both in Friday's game and in the 2011-2012 season in total. And that freaked him out, momentarily. Then he discarded those thoughts, won his team the tip-off and got to work on making his debut a success.

"After that, it was just, 'Let's get out here, and let's play,'" Dedmon said later.

He played, alright. Dedmon had his first points just 95 seconds after the tip when he dunked in a pass from point guard Maurice Jones, and he had eight points less than nine minutes into the game after he converted three straight jumpers.

Dedmon, who didn't start playing organized basketball until he was 18, finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes, leading the Trojans to a 66-59 win over Cal State Northridge.

"I thought he played very well for the first time playing," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said after the game. "I mean, that's more than he scored his entire high school career.

"This guy's never played. I don't know how to compare it, he's just never had a chance to play at this level."

There certainly were issues: He didn't box out well at all and lost out on several rebounds as a direct result. His right hand, which had been in a cast for much of the last month until this week, appeared to betray him on occasion. He got in foul trouble and had to sit out the final eight minutes of the first half and then had to come out of the game in the second with cramps in his right leg.

USC (1-0) didn't play particularly well as a team, either. Dedmon was one of three players with 16 points for the Trojans -- forward Aaron Fuller and guard Maurice Jones were the others -- but O'Neill's squad turned the ball over 20 times and let visiting Cal State Northridge take a 4-point lead with five minutes to go.

From there, Dedmon and Jones combined to score 12 of USC's final 16 points to secure the victory.

"We're happy to get any win," O'Neill said. "It beats the alternative."

Player of the game: Fuller quietly dominated the paint for the Trojans, putting up a team-high-tying 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

USC ran very few plays for him, but he managed to come up with points just fine. He said O'Neill instructed him to make himself available near the top of the key to Maurice Jones.

He did it often, and didn't miss many of his shots either, going 5-of-7 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.

"I thought Aaron Fuller had a great night," O'Neill said. "He really stepped up and made some great clutch plays."

"I thought Aaron did a great job getting to the middle of the court in the meat of their defense and making plays around the basket, getting to the basket and then getting to the foul line and making a few shots too."

Stat of the game: USC shot 15 3-point attempts and didn't convert a single one, good for precisely zero percent shooting from long range.

Jones and freshman guard Alexis Moore were the biggest perpetrators, each throwing up seven shots from deep. Walk-on Eric Strangis had the other failed attempt.

O'Neill has said all preseason that his team clearly lacked outside shooting, but nobody knew it was going to be this bad. He played Moore extensively -- 31 minutes -- because of his 3-point shooting acumen, but he wasn't pleased with a few of the freshman's shot selections.

"Obviously (0-for-15) is unacceptable," O'Neill said. "But I'm not worried about that at all. For the most part, I thought we had wide-open 3's. It's just somewhat we're going to have do, and we will. That's all there is to it."

Trend of the game: O'Neill started Strangis at shooting guard in a clear message to the other competitors for the spot that more was expected from them, but USC's lineup in the final seven minutes made it clear who O'Neill sees as the team's top-five players at this point in time.

The five: Jones, Moore, Wesley, Fuller and Dedmon. Asked about that trend afterward, O'Neill went off on a mini-rant on his displeasure with Moore's poor play of late.

"You know, Alexis isn't playing very well -- hasn't played very well in practice the last couple weeks, and he didn't play very well tonight," O'Neill said. "But he's a freshman, and when you're a freshman like that, you're just not going to play well. It's just the way it is.

"Unless you're one of these super guys that can drop off the moon like some of North Carolina's freshmen ... I know these guys are gonna struggle, but we've gotta play them."

Quote of the game: "Our guys think this is a kung-fu match. They think the harder I chop a guy, uh, boy, I'm a tough. I'm really tough, because I double-chopped him to the ground. Wow. That's not toughness. That's not smart basketball. What these guys need to understand is tough means doing the right thing all the time." -- O'Neill

The third-year USC coach was upset about his team's 20 turnovers and other various errors and was referencing the tomahawk-chop gesture Dedmon demonstrated after each of his three blocks.

Notes: Former USC stars DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson sat courtside for the game and were shown on the video board during the first half. DeRozan, who plays for the NBA's Toronto Raptors, was accompanied by teammate Ed Davis...Because the game was not broadcast on television, arena operators were able to keep the curtains open on the north side of the Galen Center, allowing for a view of the nighttime skyline in Downtown...The men's game was preceded by the women's basketball season opener, which the No. 23 Women of Troy won over Fresno State, 65-57...The announced crowd was 5,172.

Basketball: 2011-2012 season preview

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
7:21
PM PT
Let’s get this out of the way, first off: 22-year-old USC forward Dewayne Dedmon is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Not necessarily better than anything you’ve ever seen, just different – significantly different.

He’s 7 feet tall, having grown four full inches between ages 18 and 21. He’s 255 pounds, having also gained upwards of 50 pounds in that same span.

And now for the weird but true, in progressive order: He’s the second-fastest player on the USC basketball team, coming in behind only 5-6 point guard Maurice Jones. He can play point guard in a pinch, Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill says. And, maybe the craziest statistic of them all: Counting exhibitions and summer league games and everything with an official and a game clock, he’s played in fewer than 100 organized basketball games in his life.

Truthfully, the last four years of Dedmon’s life – basketball-wise, at least -- have had to take the place of most kids’ entire adolescence, and probably more. He didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 18 years old, and, even then, he didn’t play much at all until his second year of junior college.

And even then, he broke a bone in his forehead two months into the season and sat out a month. Now, 11 months since he arrived at USC, he’s finally almost fully healthy, having broken a bone in his shooting hand a less than a week into practice this October. He had to wear a gigantic makeshift cast on his right hand to be able to take part in practices until Tuesday of this week, when he had the thing removed once and for all.

He’s not pain-free, but he’s cast-free, and that’s a big step.

“This is how I explain him: He’s 7-foot and he runs like a deer,” says Jio Fontan, the USC basketball team’s captain, likely out for the 2011-2012 season with a torn ACL. “I tell people all the time, if you saw him in jogging pants just walking into the gym and asked him to shoot a jump shot, he’s gonna show you he’s a little different.

“He shoots the ball like a guard, plain and simple. But give him time. Understand that not only has he not played that many years of basketball, but he’s also just coming off sitting a whole year out.

“He’s gonna be special. It’s just gonna take time.”

The thing is, USC doesn’t have any time. Dedmon’s first major college game is Friday at 8 p.m. against Cal State Northridge, the Trojans’ 2011-12 season opener. It’ll be his first real game since February 2010. And O’Neill needs him to be the team’s No. 2 scorer and No. 1 rebounder in order the Trojans to have any real chance of getting back to the NCAA tournament this season.

It’s unlikely, but that’s what everyone said last year at this same time. And USC ended up finishing with 19 wins and sneaking into the First Four of the tourney.

Then the Trojans lost top scorer Nikola Vucevic to the NBA draft, starters Alex Stepheson, Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith to graduation and Fontan to injury. The question now is whether O’Neill can manage his new, similarly patchwork squad to similar heights.

Let’s break it down, splitting it up by backcourt and frontcourt:

(Read full post)

Basketball: Fontan hurt, Trojans lose

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
9:49
PM PT
USC senior point guard Jio Fontan suffered a potentially serious left knee injury during the second quarter of the Trojans' eventual 81-70 loss to Mogi das Cruzes in Sao Paulo on Tuesday.

X-rays on the knee were negative, a team spokesperson said, but Fontan will undergo an MRI exam Wednesday. As of now, it's being called a sprain.

"I'm always worried about any injury," O'Neill said by phone from Sao Paulo late Tuesday. "But we won't know anything until tomorrow."

USC was up by six at the time Fontan went out of the game, but the Trojans quickly fell behind without their captain and senior leader. Forward Aaron Fuller also missed the game with an illness, so USC was forced to play walk-on Eric Strangis extensive minutes and work newcomers Greg Allen, Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley into the rotation.

O'Neill said they were in a "little over their heads."

Sophomore guard Maurice Jones led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds and center Dewayne Dedmon had his best game yet with 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks. Forward Garrett Jackson added 12 points and six rebounds and Fontan had eight points at the time of his injury.

"We actually played well, against another good team," O'Neill said. "Our guys did a great job."

USC will travel from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro Wednesday and then play its final game of the trip on Friday in Rio. The Trojans had planned on playing a game Wednesday or Thursday in one of the two cities, but those plans have been scrapped.

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PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler413292350536
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen25013375.39
J. Davis1255504.44
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N. Agholor97122312.611
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Offense158.2294.6452.8
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