USC really should have won this game. They had two great chances to seal up the game and blew both in the worst way possible, and despite some atrocious first half officiating there is really no excuse for what happened last night. In about the first 5 or 6 minutes of the game the team shot out to a 22-11 lead over the Huskies and had a great chance to put their foot on UW's throat and finish things before the half. However, some lapses on defense and an offensive drought turned into a 20-6 Washington run to end the first half 31-28.
In the second half, SC slowly but steadily climbed back to take a relatively lat 50-46 lead with only 5 minutes or so to go. Unfortunately the offnse dissappeared again providing only one point down the stretch, Pondexter hit consecutive shots on three possessions, and USC simply gave away opportunities by way of turnovers and missed free throws. The game was one heck of a roller coaster to be sure, but it had an incredibly dissapointing end considering how dominant the Trojans looked in the opening minutes.
Now for a change of pace, after the jump...
Now that I have all of the bad vibes out of the way, I have to say that the title I chose is incredibly inaccurate. While SC only has the absolute slimmest of slim chances of making the tournament, the season really only end when the players decide it does. This team has incredible potential, they have been in basically every game this year except for one game in Pauley Pavillion, and while the goal of getting to the NCAA tourney is basically out of reach, that is no reason not to try to win out and grab a high seed in the NIT. While it may be viewed as a bit of a consolation prize, it also means a couple more home games and more experience.
It is easy to tell that the players are stuck in their heads right now. Dwight Lewis is second guessing his shot after misses, Taj Gibson is hjust not the same player he was before dislocating his pinkie, and Daniel Hackett is facing unfair scrutiny from both fans and the media for things that are simply out of his control. All three of these guys need to find whatever they have lost psychologically since the first half of conference and return to playing at the high level they have shown through out much of the season. Simply put the conference play is not over and there is still something, even if its only pride, to play for. Right now the upperclassmen need to step up to show that this is their team and that they are the leaders. Hopefully Lewis and Hackett are getting fired up and the blood is starting to boil a bit because that is exactly what the Trojans need right now!
Coming up there is a big time road trip up to the Bay Area against very tough Cal and Stanford teams. SC clipped both at home, but neither was a sure thing until the final minutes. Both Vucevic and Washington are coming off of nice performances in the losing effort, and Derozan was playing very well this half up until last night. An SF sweep isn't inconceivable, but USC is going to have to play with some serious heart if they want to pull it off.
FIGHT ON and BEAT THE BEARS!
P.S. Later this week I am going to take a look at the incoming recruiting class, which now features arguably the best player in the nation in Renardo Sidney. Special emphasis will be put on the ever popular PG problem, so look forward to it!