I didn't exactly get to see this game, but I think the box score tells most of the story. WSU went 14 for 51 on field goal attempts and was 10-10 on free throws. USC went 13 for 37 and was 19-31 on free throw attempts. Nuff said right? The game was clearly a defensive struggle played at a very slow pace, and for close followers of both teams this shouldn't be a huge surprise. Still, regardless of how ugly the game likely was, a win is a win and WSU has given the Trojans fits in recent games over the past couple of seasons.
More after the jump
Fun fact, the Cougars were the only team to sweep the Trojans in conference play last year. Most of this was due to the Cougars almost uncanny ability to control the pace of the game through tough defense and the way they seem to work the shot clock on every possesion. This leads to frustration for a lot of teams, and often causes the game to stay relatively close (and therefore winnable) throughout while making even slight leads seem insurmountable.
And so, when USC was down 38-30, it might as well have been game over or at least I would have thought it was game over if I had actually seen the game. Apparently USC really made it happen with the free throws, and Hackett in particularly made 11 of 14 for the game even though he only shot 1-8 from the field. Taj also chipped in with 12 points and 12 boards, and it seemed like the team really had to will their way to a win in this one. Did SC get a little love from the refs? Probably, but to be frank I will take it after the utter ridiculousness of the UW game.
So what can we take from the Trojans first win in Pullman in 5 years? I have been really surprised with the way this team has found ways to win. It was no small issue to lose Leonard Washington for the early part of conference play, and now SC has had to make due without leading scorer and three point threat Dwight Lewis. Yet they managed to stay above .500 in conference play and have been in winnable situations in all of the Pac 10 games so far. It also appears that Floyd may have some go to bench players now in Marcus Johnson and Nikola Vucevic which he has not really had all year.
Its hard to be too disappointed in the Washington road trip. The players did what needed to be done by getting a split, and its hard to fault the team too much for the loss as the officials had a large say in the outcome of that game. USC now has a homestand against the northern California schools, and two wins would go a long way towards securing that ever elusive at large bid. It will be a challenge as both the Farm and Cal feature a number of sharpshooters, but both are looking vulnerable coming off of losses to Oregon State.