The one thing that hurt us the most the absence of Taj Gibson on the floor last night. His solid play has been so critical to SC's success in the post season but yesterday he just disappeared. Izzo knew our weak spot and he exploited it. He had the depth so he ran as many guys at Taj as he could knowing that he had fouls to give and knowing that Taj can get into foul trouble.
I probably would have done the same thing...take the big man out of the game and SC looks a whole lot different. The problem is Taj has a history of disappearing like he did yesterday and he has done it now 3 years in a row.
Gibson has had a brilliant three-year career at USC and averaged 14.3points and 9.4rebounds this year.
But every year his season ends in disturbing fashion. He's made a habit of fouling out in NCAA Tournament games, despite not having troubles staying in games all season. He fouled out five times this season, including Sunday.
Last year, Gibson fouled out in a first-round loss to Kansas State that stung so bad it fueled his decision to return for his junior year. Gibson had 10 points and nine rebounds in that game.
The year before that, Gibson fouled out against North Carolina in the Sweet 16. He had 16 points and 12 rebounds, however.
This year, Gibson fouled out with five blocks. No rebounds. And three free throws.
I was at that UNC Game. He played great and SC had UNC on the ropes and they let them get away. Its hard not to appreciate how much Taj Means to this team he has been indispensable and it showed in not having him last night.
I don't think its all his fault...The last two fouls were very questionable but SC had a few go there way as well so I have a hard time berating the officials. What did bother me was that in one minute they were calling anything resembling a foul and then the next minute they put the whistles in their pockets.
Randy Youngman of the OCR probably reflects how many of the fans on some of the message boards that I read feel.
Come to think of it, the court at the Metrodome in Minneapolis probably resembled a CSI mystery to USC's Tim Floyd in the closing minutes of the Trojans' season-ending 74-69 loss to Michigan State.
Floyd was understandably apoplectic, because the zebras swallowed their whistles down the stretch. Suffice to say, I've seen less contact on Saturday afternoons in the Coliseum than the refs allowed near the end of the USC-Michigan State game.
Again, I think SC had some go their way but there were also some questionable calls. So while I think the officials did an OK job I would have been happier if they just kept it consistent.
Same old S*** different game.
Taj is in a tough situation. Does he come back for another year and solidify his stock or does he bolt for the NBA? I think he is gone. He really has nothing more to prove and his age is an issue...the window is closing on his earning power in the NBA. I would love for him to stay and be a balancing force to Sidney in his freshman year but I just don't see it happening. It has been fun to watch Taj mature but it might be time to move on.