Trojans Suffer Potentially Season-Crushing Loss in the Palouse

Washington State 51 USC 47, USC 16-10 (8-6 Pac-10)    

I have no idea what to say following Saturday afternoon's debacle in Pullman against Washington State. By all accounts, the Trojans should have walked onto Friel Court and left with a victory in hand. But as you are all very well aware of, that didn't happen. And quite frankly, there is no reason why it shouldn't have. This is the same Washington State team that lost to sub-500 UCLA by twenty points on Thursday and were looking like a team ready to throw in the towel as well. On the flip side, USC was coming off an impressive road victory at Washington and were just a half game behind first-place Cal. But the Trojans' matchup with the Cougars greatly damaged their hopes for an outright conference title. 

However, at the end of the day, USC shoulders most of the blame for the loss to the Cougars. Defensively, they put themselves in a position to win, but simply lacked the proficiency of a great team to get the job done.  For 40 minutes, the Trojans were tough as nails on the defensive end of the floor. Senior guard Dwight Lewis was forced to guard Washington State's scoring leader Klay Thompson for most of the game, but held the sophomore guard to a career low two points - a significant dropoff for a player who averages 20.1 points per game. Through 38 minutes, he missed all 12 of his field-goal attempts and had six turnovers as well. To top it off, he turned the ball over 5 times and went just 2-of-5 from the free throw line.

Still, WSU's offensive troubles weren't limited to Thompson. Collectively, the Cougars shot 38% from the field (23% from 3-point range) and finished with 15 total turnovers. 

But USC couldn't capitalize on WSU's sluggish offense. In fact, the Trojans may have been even more inefficient than Klay Thompson and company. Outside of Lewis, who had 14-points to lead all scores, the Trojans had their fair share of struggles offensively. As a whole, they finished with a shooting percentage of just 38% (2-of-14 beyond the arc) and finished 15 turnovers in comparison to 10 assists. That isn't going to get the job done, as evident by their point total.

What makes the loss so frustrating is that the Cougars did nearly everything possible to put these guys in a position to win and they failed to get the job done. Down the stretch, Washington State made just 14 of 24 free throws, including misses on 3 of 4 attempts in the final 11.9 seconds. Yet, the Trojans simply couldn't score. There isn't much more to it than that.

As a result, an outright Pac-10 regular season championship is an even more daunting goal for this group. For such an event to occur, 'SC, which now trails Cal by a game and a half, would need the Bears to lose two out of their final three games while also winning all of its four remaining games. It can happen, but at this point, the odds are stalked against them.

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