Trojans to host Bears

Win number two of the season has proved to be more elusive than the USC men’s basketball team would have liked.

The Trojans (1-3) have been competitive in their first three attempts to earn their second victory, but each time have come up short.

The Trojans come off a home loss to Cal Poly in which they blew an eight-point lead in the second half, which followed a double-overtime loss to Nebraska and a narrow two-point defeat at San Diego State.

“The unfortunate thing is that we are getting our lessons from losing, and we need to take some lessons from winning,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “Losing is a difficult thing to deal with, but it does grow you up.”

The Trojans have been relying heavily on inexperienced players. Three starters, freshman guards Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley and sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon, did not have any Division-I experience before this season, and have experienced some ups and downs.

Moore scored 11 points against Nebraska, but has only combined for 11 points in his other three games.

Wesley is tied for the second-most assists on the team but has yet to connect on his five attempts from beyond the arc.

Dedmon scored 16 points in the season opener against Cal State Northridge, but then recorded a total of 15 points in his next three games.

“It is not time to get down on ourselves,” Moore said.

In close games, USC is missing the leadership and experience of senior guard Jio Fontan, the Trojans’ leading returner in points and assists, who suffered an ACL tear during an exhibition game this summer in Brazil that could sideline him for the entire season.

“The second Jio went down in Brazil, I knew there were going to be some nights like this,” O’Neill said after the game against Cal Poly. “That is not changing. He is not coming back anytime soon.”

The Trojans face Morgan State tonight at home at 7 p.m. The Bears (0-3), who compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, return four starters from a team that went 17-14 last season, led by junior forward Dewayne Jackson, who averaged 14.5 points per game.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Trojans will travel to Las Vegas for two games as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.

USC will first compete against UNLV on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Rebels (4-0) are averaging 85.25 points per game, whereas the Trojans are scoring 54.25 points per contest.

The winner of that game will advance to face the victor between top-ranked North Carolina and  South Carolina on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and the two losing teams will play at 4:30 p.m.

The Trojans then have two more road games before returning home to face New Mexico on Dec. 10.

“There is a lot of basketball yet to be played,” O’Neill said. “We have to get tougher and better.”