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65-64: Another Step Forward

I think everyone who watched last nights game had to have fealt a sort of shared overwhelming sense of doom when Hackett missed those two free throws with SC down by 1 with very little time left on the clock. I mean, how many times has this team has blown great opportunities to win down the stretch in tight games? I really don't know exactly how many, but it sure feels like a lot. Shortly afterward Arizona rebounded and Taj Gibson was forced to give his 5th foul on Jordan Hill, sneding him to the line to shoot the one and one.

Hill's first free throw rattled in, giving Arizona a 64-62 edge and the feeling that if they hit the next one the game would be all but wrapped up. Luckily the second attempt bounced off of the iron and the Trojans were able to bring the ball back up court. After a bit of dribbling and attempting to run a set play, Wilkinson slid out of the interior to set a screen and Hackett slashed hard to the left and nailed the jumper on a difficult shot from just behind the free throw line to tie the game 64 all. On the ensuing possesion Arizona attempted to feed the inside, but in a blizzard of limbs the ball was knocked out of bounds with refs ruling the possession in favor of USC with about 3.5 seconds left on the clock.

Hackett took the inbound and pressed hard up court against heavy pressure from the Wildcats D. With about one and a half seconds on the clock the ball was brought just beyond the half court line when Jamelle Horn bumped Hackett out bounds. Of course Hackett really sold the foul, but it worked and he was once again put on the line with a chance to give SC the lead. He nailed the first shot to give the Trojans a 65-64 edge, and purposefully clanged the second, forcing Jordan Hill to take an essentially unmakeable cross court shot. Hackett had redeemed himself, and somehow the Trojans had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

USC Hoops fans have to be feeling really good right about now. The upperclassmen showed excellent leadership and grit in this past game, with Dwight scoring the last 12 points before Hackett's jumper and free throw and Taj showing great composure when he was doubled and tripled all night. Demar is starting to come on, and Leonard Washington seems to be back from his injury as he was throwing his body around with no regard for his health last night. Wilkinson is also contributing as a role player (9 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists over the past two games), and the bench is a bit deeper with the addition of Marcus Johnson. Now the team will hit the road to face a much improved Washington this Thursday and a revamped WSU team that had given SC fits in the past. A road sweep would be very nice and is within the teams grasp, but anything less than a split is unacceptable. Hopefully tyhe team can keep riding this momentum to a few more quality wins as they are only a game out of first place.