Eric Wise led USC with 14 points. - US PRESSWIRE
The Trojans shot 53 percent, but 11 New Mexico 3-pointers and a 22-4 run to end the first half did in USC's upset hopes as the Lobos pulled out a 75-67 win at The Pit Wednesday night.
-- BREAKING IT DOWN --
Key moment: Up 28-18, USC had its biggest lead of the game with 8:06 left in the first half. But after the teams traded baskets, the Trojans had one of their patented cold streaks. New Mexico finished the first half on a 22-4 run to take a lead it would not relinquish..
Players of the game: Hugh Greenwood. Greenwood entered the game shooting 24.1 percent from downtown this year, but he put his early season woes behind him Wednesday night. Greenwood came out on fire, making four of his six first half 3-pointers. He cooled somewhat in the second half making only one of his three shots from beyond the arc. But he also knocked down a clutch fadeaway jumper from the left side with under two minutes remaining to sink USC's comeback chances.
Eric Wise. After only taking three shots in Monday night's loss, EWise returned to form as the Trojans' most reliable player. He finished with a team-high 14 points (6-for-9) and added two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Most Spectacular Play: USC went on a 10-0 run late in the second half to trim what was once a 19-point deficit down to five with 2:14 remaining. But Lobos' leading scorer Kendall Williams responded with a dagger, splashing a 3-pointer through the net. After Wise spun through the lane and didn't get a foul call, Greenwood put the nail in the coffin with his fadeaway jumper just inside the three-point line.
Unsung Hero: Chass Bryan. The walk-on point guard played a solid 15 minutes, pushing the tempo. Head coach Kevin O'Neill used Bryan and Jio Fontan in the same backcourt for a long stretch of the first half with JT Terrell on the bench in foul trouble. He had four points and four assists while turning the ball over just once. The smallest man on the court also grabbed three rebounds.
"Step It Up:" Perimeter passing. Everyone is questioning USC's offensive sets in the half court. But the blame isn't just on O'Neill. The perimeter passing amongst the Trojan guards is bad, bordering on atrocious at times. The Trojans can't get into any offensive sets because the wings aren't running tight enough off screens and the wings aren't able to catch the ball in an attacking position because the perimeter passing isn't good.
Several times this season, opposing teams have got easy steals as USC tries to move the ball to the wings. USC has simply thrown it right to the opponents. New Mexico forced 14 turnovers and had more than a handful of near steals as well. Instead of catching the ball while having to shield away a defender, USC wings like Terrell and Byron Wesley need to have the threat of taking the immediate jumper.
Key stat: 51.9. Teams coached by O'Neill are known for their defensive intensity and blue collar man-to-man defense. But the last two games, O'Neill has had to resort to 2-3 and triangle-and-two zone defenses. The Trojans are showing too strong on help defense rather than just flashing. It's causing them to give up way too many open looks and good shooting teams have made them pay. Wednesday night, USC shot nearly 53 percent and still couldn't win because it allowed New Mexico to shoot 51.9 percent from the field, including making 11 three-point attempts. That's definitely not a KO-approved defensive effort.
Sideline Strategy: Besides implementing the zone defense, which worked, KO also used some interesting subs. Freshman shooting guard Brendyn Taylor got two minutes in the second half while one of USC's most explosive players off the bench, Ace Stewart, only played two minutes.
Other odd men out in the sub rotation included Monday night's Unsung Hero, James Blasczyk, who didn't get in the game. Renaldo Woolridge also did not play -- the fourth time this season. After not playing Monday, Greg Allen played eight minutes, but missed both of his field goal attempts.
Where They Stand: The season isn't over, but it is definitely trending in the wrong direction. The Trojans have now lost four straight -- granted those four losses are to opponents with a combined 26-4 record -- and five of six. USC is also 1-4 away from home and could really use a big win to help turn things around. It will get another top 25 opponent on Saturday when the No. 14 Minnesota Golden Gophers travel to the Galen Center.