Talk about heartbreak! USCLink was there, so he had a front row seat of how it all went down. This is his post so I'll let him run with it. This was close one and our guys played great but we let it get away coming down the stretch. No moral victories here, we should have won this one but things are coming together. Paragon SC
Let me preface this by congratulating our rivals from Westwood. They stayed in the game, made the plays they needed to and squeaked by with a win.
Now that that's out of the way, here's my gut-check reaction:
Pre-game was fantastic. A moment of silence was held for the late Mario Danelo, and the place was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. That was awesome, and my appreciate goes out to all fans who attended the event. Oftentimes, someone will use that moment to make a snarky comment like "Trojans suck!" or "F*** the bRuins!" or something along those lines. However, the crowd was quiet, respectful, and I (as well as the rest of the Trojan community) am very appreciative.
We have no one to blame but ourselves for this loss. We played better, out-hustled them, and played smart ball. Unfortunately, our free throw shooting was absolutely atrocious. Although I won't be checking ESPN for stats, I can say we probably shot about 60% from the line. And against a team like Fucla, that won't get the job done. It'll get you close, but it won't get you all the way.
The first half was all 'SC. Our defense was physical, daunting, and held the bRuins incredibly well. Taj Gibson draws special credit here, as he was absolutely fantastic at dropping off M'bah a Moute and into coverage when Collison cut to the basket and got a step in on Hackett or Gabe Pruitt. We took a 5-point lead going into the half, with the possession arrow pointed in our favor.
Gibson getting it done
(Dave Waters / AP)
Speaking of Hackett, he plays out of his mind defense, and was lockdown when he was in. He doesn't have the ability to make offensive plays like Pruitt, but when he is on defense, they do not score. Period.
The overall effort of the team, and the spirit at the Galen center was absolutely fantastic. The sell-out stadium lived up to its name. Aside from maybe 30 seats in the northeast corner upper deck, the place was packed, and regardless of what any bRuins say, our sellout was OUR sellout. Although there were perhaps 1000 bRuin fans, the vast vast VAST majority were Trojans. Our student section was fantastic, the band was rowdy, and when we went up by 10 points in the second half, the place was as intimidating as any venue I've ever attended. Halftime was a tribute to Trojan great Bill Sharman, who played with the Lakers, and was a fantastic player. "Bull's-eye" Bill's #11 jersey was retired, in a very nice ceremony.
When the second half began, we came out firing on all cylinders. Taj looked fantastic, Gabe hit his stride after being held scoreless in the first half, and started downing 3's. Hackett's defense was awesome, and we maintained a solid 5-10 point lead for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Then, suddenly, momentum shifted. Collison single-handedly brought the bRuins back into the game with back to back 3's that cut the deficit from 10 to 4. We maintained the lead fro the next 3 minutes, but shots weren't sinking, and our free throw shooting went to crap. It was incredible how quickly it turned, and amazing how our boys fought through the momentum shift.
The bRuins tied the game, and then went ahead on a 3. The Galen center still didn't get deflated, and the crowd was still fighting on and holding fingers up high. When we went down by 6 with about 1 minute 20 seconds left in the game, it got nerve-racking. But that didn't stop us. Gabe Pruitt hit an absolutely clutch 3, bringing the difference to 3. Taj Gibson then fouled Mata with 50 seconds.
Mata missed both free throws, 'SC recovered the rebound and we were back in business. Nick Young's incredible 3-point shot tied the game up with 22 seconds left, and when he was fouled during the shot, we had the opportunity to go up by 1. And so we did. After being down by 6 with just over a minute left, we were up by 1 with 22 seconds standing between us, and a 4-1 record in pac-10 play. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Although our defense was lockdown, it is almost impossible to block a fade away, and Afflalo's shot went down with just 4.7 seconds left.
The inbounds play was broken up at the line, and Gabe Pruitt's last second effort was off balance and didn't really have a chance at going in. All in all, our boys looked and played fantastic everywhere except at the free throw line. And Tim Floyd's coaching has made us one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Freakin' Heartbreak...but the guy is a Gamer.
(Stephen Dunn / AP)
We can and will compete with anyone, and everyone in the nation. When we play Arizona on Thursday, it's going to be a big deal. This loss does almost as much to validate us, as a win would have. It shows that we are not to be taken lightly, and that we shouldn't be shocking anyone with our play. Don't be surprised to see us in the tournament, and don't be surprised to see us knocking off more traditional powers.
You may have won this round bRuins, but the fight isn't over. The current score is Ben Ball 2 - Tim Floyd 1. Considering You're the national powerhouse, I'm ok with that. We led for 75% of this game, and we're going to make some big waves.
We're relevant...and we're not going anywhere but up.