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USC Falls on the Road to Nebraska

On Saturday, Lane Kiffin and company failed to capitalize on a plethora of Irish turnovers and various other opportunities. The same could be said for USC's now 4-3 basketball team, which managed to squander a 20-point lead on the road at Nebraska, falling to the Cornhuskes by a final score of 60-58. It was a game, which in many respects, should have resulted in a victory for 'SC. In the first half, the Trojans shot 56.7% from field, taking a 13-point lead into halftime. Even with just 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining in the half, they led 37-17.

But something went wrong, and it's relatively easy to understand what. Over the final 22 minutes, the Trojans were outscored 43-21, and as with many similar losses this season, it's easy to attribute it to a lack of depth.

Once again, O'Neill used a seven-man rotation consisting of three freshmen and two largely inept seniors in Donte Smith and Alex Stepheson.

This is the type of game, where you want to criticize the coach for his team's "lack of focus," or players for not developing a "killer instinct," but if anything, the loss is indicative of circumstances.

It's tough, and in many instances nearly impossible, to win on the road with a bench that largely consists of two players. The starters, as a result, are going to get tired, make dumb mistakes and shortchange jump shots.

And on Saturday, all of those problem areas presented themselves.

In the second half, USC shot 27.6% from the field, a far cry from their first half totals, while also finishing with a total of 14 turnovers, many of them coming in the second half.

It's tough to ask a freshman PG such as Maurice Jones to log 40 minutes on multiple nights each week. Even expecting players such as Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic to do the same can be a little much to ask.

However, with USC's shortened rotation, there are a few alterations that could and should be made, largely preserving players' legs.

On Wednesday, USC defeated Cal State Fullerton at home by 27-points; yet, Jones still played 37 minutes. Others such as Bryce Jones and Vucevic played well into the 30s as well.

The question begs as to why. This team, for some odd reason, is scheduled to play eight games in a span of 17 days (the final one comes Monday at TCU). So why continue to play guys such as Jones and Vucevic deep into the second half of a home blowout over a mid-level Big West team?

It's all about depth and stamina at this point in the season, sadly, and until Jio Fontan is eligible and inserted into the lineup, blowing second half leads, especially on the road, is going to become rather commonplace.

Luckily, Fontan is scheduled to return Dec. 18 for a road matchup with Kansas.