USC should have won. That's neither an exaggeration nor an understatement. Despite a 14-point second half deficit, the unranked Trojans outscored No. 3 Kansas 48-39 in the final twenty minutes, even leading by two points with under a minute left.
But in holding a narrow two-point leading with 50 seconds remaining in the contest, the Trojans seemingly gave the game away. Instead of initiating any sort of motion and utilizing an offensive system with structure, the Trojans stood around and watched Maurice Jones dribble. Eventually, Kansas regained possession, where Josh Selby nailed a three-pointer with 20.7 seconds left. And honestly, I'd prefer not to describe the final moments.
At that point, USC's stagnant offense continued, nearly turning the ball over with 6 seconds remaining before Kansas deflected the ball out of bounce.
Following a timeout, however, USC inbounded the ball to Jio Fontan, who stepped out of bounds and the Jayhawks regained possession.
It's easy to fault Kevin O'Neill today. Once his team took the lead, he tightened things up and his team played "not to lose." They held onto the ball for as long as possible toward the end of the game and failed to execute. He shares responsibility for that.
But don't go clamoring for Tim Floyd either. I don't think anyone, with absolute certainty, can say that Floyd would have done anything different down the stretch.
There are some things that go beyond coaching, as 'SC was outrebounded 38-29 and left Selby open for the final three-pointer. That's on the players.
Overall, there are plenty of positives to take away. For one, the Trojans held Kansas to under 40% shooting and 17 points below their seasonal average. Those are some of the benefits as to having O'Neill on the sidelines.
But the offense, as usual, is where they struggled. Not just on the final possessions, but in general. Collectively, they finished with an assist-to-turnover of 3:4 and the team's most efficient and effective offensive threat (Nikola Vucevic) attempted just eight sots.
O'Neill's defense kept USC within striking defense and gave them a chance to win, but with a stagnant offense, a win eluded them. It was quintessential O'Neill, not necessarily good or bad, just not good enough.
The season is far from over. Granted, the team's failure to get a quality win over Kansas makes an NCAA Tournament at-large berth seem like a far away possibility, this team could very easily win the Pac-10, which isn't particularly good.