SC's win over Oregon last night did a lot to build their confidence. With the amount of freshmen playing prominent roles on this team you can see how they have stepped up to the challenge, so much so that Coach Tim Floyd has no problem putting them in pressure situations. Now that's not to say that there aren't any problems on this team but you can see that the talent is coming together.
Not in the mind of their coach, who has the confidence to start two of them and bring the other off the bench in critical late-game situations.
And not in the eyes of their teammates, who have become accustomed to seeing them come up big against veteran opponents.
Freshmen Taj Gibson, Dwight Lewis and Daniel Hackett continued to show maturity beyond their years Saturday during USC's 71-68 victory over No. 9 Oregon at the Galen Center.
..."I don't look at these guys as freshmen," junior guard Gabe Pruitt said. "They're great players, they've made good plays, they've been in big games, so I think they know what they're doing."
That is not to say that they won't make a freshman mistakes on occasion but you can see that they will make the right decision more often than not. Defense still continues to be a bit of an issue as SC let the Ducks back into the game with a 28-15 run to open up the second half. SC dodged a bullet when Aaron Brooks' 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the front of the rim, but he was able to break free and put a fake on that made that shot possible. That shot would have been moot had Gibson hit both free throws at the other end to put SC up by 4. Instead he missed the first but made the second giving SC a 3 point lead thus setting Brooks up for the possible game winning shot. In the end it didn't matter but is was close enough to make us all nervous.
SC needs to clamp down when they face the Bruins on Thursday as the Bruins look to pull away in the Pac 10 and start focusing on the tournament. They may not respect us but we need to show them that we are on the rise and we will be a force to be reckoned with as time moves on. They are the standard right now and they want to show that they belong but we need to play our game. We had them on the ropes but they did what good teams do, find a way to win.
Its easy for UCLA to ignore us, as they don't respect us, and that may be in our favor, we beat them last year and we need to do it again this year, a win solidifies our position and shows that we can win on the "road" so-to-speak and that will go a long way to showing the critics that we are for real. Tim Floyd has done an excellent job at working with what he had to and our progress shows the fruits of his hard work.
I am unconcerned at what they think across town. Most of the "tradition" is from days gone by and a loss in last years title game is just that, a loss. This team can play no doubt but they can be beat and I am unimpressed about a bunch of banners that have been collecting dust in an old unrefurbished building from another era, that was then, this is now. We need to make a statement that we are relevant and take it to the Bruins in their house. Why not? As I have said before, you have to start somewhere this is as good a place as any. There a million things that they want to bring up but at the end of the day its about winning, not academics, not class, not anything but winning. They're a great team but they're not invincible Florida showed us that.