Senior point guard Pe'Shon Howard sat in street clothes on the end of the USC basketball bench with ineligible transfers Darion Clark and Katin Reinhardt, Sunday evening at the Galen Center.
Suspended for the game for the ubiquitous "violation of team rules," Howard sat quietly and watched the Trojans turn the ball over 17 times and distribute a season-low six assists. Like most of the fans in the stands, he grimaced as USC dropped its sixth straight game, losing 83-74 to Colorado, to fall to 1-11 in Pac-12 play.
"When you lose a starting guard, who averages over four assists per game, a senior, it hurts not having [Howard] in there," USC head coach Andy Enfield.
Even without Howard, USC followed a very similar script. The Trojans turned the ball over way too often, didn't shoot well while the other team knocked down open looks and a significant run killed them.
Of USC's 17 turnovers, 11 came from the guards while Omar Oraby had five himself down low. Walk-on sophomore Chass Bryan started at point guard for Howard and played a season-high 20 minutes. He only had one turnover, but his one assist was one of only three recorded by a guard.
No one really stepped up to fill the offensive void caused by Howard's suspension. Bryan played fine scoring eight points on 2-of-2 shooting before fouling out, which would be great production off the bench, but not what the Trojans needed from their starting point guard.
Kahlil Dukes got his second straight start at the shooting guard position and had as many air balls as makes. He also had two turnovers in 11 minutes. J.T. Terrell played well at times. He scored 14 points off the bench, but Terrell is still in a shooting rut, finishing the night 1-for-5 from deep.
Terrell's 6-for-17 performance was indicative of the entire team's shooting woes. In the second half USC was particulary poor, shooting 31.6 percent, which enabled Colorado to go on 11-2 and 10-3 runs to push the lead to as many as 18 points.
"We missed a lot of layups. We need to make easy shots," Enfield said. "And some of the turnovers, [the players] invent themselves. Some is because of skill level and some is inexperienced guys."
Using a full-court press, USC outscored Colorado 11-3 in a 1:42 span to whittle the lead down nine points. Terrell got a fair look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 35 seconds, but couldn't connect. The Buffaloes made four free throws to salt the game away.
Colorado came into the game shooting 32 percent from three-point range, but made 8-of-17. Jaron Hopkins entered shooting 27 percent, but made two of five. Xavier Johnson came in with a percentage less than 30 percent, but knocked down three of his five attempts. The Buffaloes had everything working, even a pair of 3-pointers that banked in.
USC's last three opponents have now shot a perfect 50 percent from deep (28-for-56) while USC finished 3-for-15 with seven different players missing.
"Things aren't always going to go your way. So what do you do about it?" Andy Enfield said. "This group keeps trying hard. They give effort. I know it's frustrating for the players to miss 11 layups. But they keep together as a team and keep playing hard."
The lone bright spot for the Trojans, as has been the case nearly all season, was Byron Wesley. The junior guard poured in 21 points and 8 rebounds while contributing 3 steals. He and Terrell were the only Trojans in double figures while Colorado had five players.
Xavier Johnson led the way, scoring 20 points for the third time in four games. Askia Booker had 18. Josh Scott scored 17 while Xavier Dalton put in 14 and Hopkins put in 10 off the bench.
USC basketball will try to break the losing streak on Thursday when it travels to Stanford for an 8 p.m. PST matchup that will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Colorado basketball heads home to host Arizona State Wednesday on ESPNU.