The month of December hasn’t been too kind to the USC men’s basketball team.
Facing Georgia at the Galen Center on Saturday in the second game of a four-game homestand, the Trojans (4-7) stumbled against the visiting Bulldogs, falling by a score of score of 63-59 – the Trojans’ third consecutive loss. They are currently winless in December with their last victory coming on Nov. 30 with a 56-35 win at UC Riverside.
For much of the season, defense has been the Trojans’ calling card, but against Georgia (5-5) in front of an announced crowd of 3,784, USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s group allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 51 percent from the field and an even higher 69 percent from 3-point range.
Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a former McDonald’s All-American last year, led Georgia with a game-high 21 points, converting on four of his five 3-point attempts. Georgia, collectively, would make nine from beyond the arc.
Despite its uncharacteristically shaky defensive performance, USC, nonetheless, had plenty of chances to notch what would have been its fifth victory of the season.
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the second half, it led 47-39, but slowly, Georgia crawled back, tying the score around the five-minute mark.
Within the waning moments, Caldwell-Pope nailed a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 60-56 lead.
Trailing by four points with just under 24.6 seconds remaining, freshman guard Alexis Moore, on the very next possession, drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. But Caldwell-Pope, on the next play, was fouled and made two free throws to give Georgia a late 62-59 lead.
On the nest play, however, Moore, who finished with a career-high 18 points, turned the ball and Georgia was able to preserve its first win since Nov. 22.
Sophomore guard Maurice Jones, once again playing all 40 minutes for USC, chipped in as well, scoring 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Junior forward Aaron Fuller added 10 points and nine rebounds, as well.
Saturday’s loss also marked the second straight game for USC that has come down to the final minutes. Against New Mexico a week ago, the Trojans led 41-40 late in the second half following a 3-point play from sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon before watching the Lobos convert all four free-throw attempts to preserve a three-point win.
All of the Trojans’ four losses at the Galen Center this season have come by six points or less.
USC returns to action next week, hosting TCU on Monday at 7:30 p.m. and No. 12 Kansas on Thursday at 8 p.m. in its final matchup of nonconference play.