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Trojans stumble at Arizona

To put it lightly, Saturday afternoon's showing in Tucson wasn't the best display of basketball, even for this USC team. Offensive inefficiency: check. Defensive ineptitude: check. It's tough to scramble for positives, particularly after giving up over 40 points in both halves, essentially ending the team's already slim NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes.

Following the Trojans' 82-73 defeat at the hands of Arizona, USC wrapped up the first half of conference play with a 4-5 mark, and considering the fact that the Pac-10 isn't particularly, well, good, you'd like to think this team could finish with more than a total of four wins or even over .500. Overall, there have been far too many letdowns: Cal, Oregon and Oregon State just to name a few. Even Washington was a game that was certainly winnable.

Saturday, however, was arguably the first time the Trojans have been run off the court during Pac-10 play. They trailed by nine points at halftime, and at multiple points in the second half, trailed by at least 20. They didn't play well, and I'm not exactly breaking any news by insinuating as much.

But at the same time, I feel that a number of the comments, "letdown" or "worst performance of the year," are, to some degree, a little much. Was it a good performance? By no means. But they've played worse. The difference this time around is that Arizona, IMHO, is the best team in the conference: terrific ball movement, good man-to-man defense and they shoot well.

'SC's problems were magnified against 'Zona, which again, is a good team. They didn't close out well, at times, and the Wildcats capitalized on that, shooting 61.2 percent from the field and over 50 percent from 3-point range.

The defensive performance left a lot to be desired, but at the same time, those problems were possibly blown out of proportion by a team that couldn't miss and played spectacularly well at both ends of the floor. For blowout losses, this wasn't that bad. Of course, saying that sounds a bit silly. But you get what I mean, right?

What is most strange about today's game, though, was the fact that offense wasn't necessarily the central reason for a loss. USC won the turnover battle - 8:11 and played reasonably well, shooting 46.6 percent from the field. Those aren't horrid numbers by any stretch. Truth be told, a lot of those buckets came in garbage tonight, but offensively, 'SC was always in a position to win, even in the first half. They simply gave up far too many 6-0, 8-2 spurts. That can't happen on the road, especially against a good team.

It's all about the Pac-10 Tournament now. So, cheers to eligibility?