Trojans look to notch first Pac-12 win
MaybeÂ itâll happen on Thursday, maybe it wonât.
With the USC menâs basketball teamâs last win coming more than a month ago on Dec. 19 against Texas Christian, the Trojans are still searching for their first win in Pac-12 play. The teamâs current eight-game losing streak is also the programâs longest since the 1988-1989 season when it dropped 13 in a row.
USC coach Kevin OâNeill hopes his struggling team can reverse its course at last, as it hosts Colorado at the Galen Center.
âWeâve got 11 games left and weâve got to look at every one as an opportunity to get a win,â OâNeill said. âWeâre going to play with who weâve got and move ahead in a positive manner. Thatâs all we can do.â
The Trojans (15-5, 0-7) donât have a whole lot. With junior forward Aaron Fuller out for the remainder of the season because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder, just seven scholarship players are available.
Senior guard Jio Fontan (knee), redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith (shoulder) and sophomore center Curtis Washington (shoulder) have all been sidelined with season-ending injuries in addition to Fuller, who had been leading the team in rebounding with 5.9 per contest.
âWe always talk about one thing: Do your job,â OâNeill said. âIâm getting paid; youâre getting a scholarship. Our job is to go out and do the best we can with what weâve got. And thatâs what our guys have been trying to do.â
With fewer and fewer lineup options remaining, OâNeill opted to start walk-on junior guard Daniel Munoz in their last game at Oregon State. The 5-foot-10 Munoz had played in just four games all season before being placed into the starting lineup against the Beavers.
Munoz is among two walk-ons this season who have received playing time, the other being senior guard Eric Strangis, who started during the teamâs season opener against Cal State Northridge.
Munoz is not expected to start Thursday but will play a key role off the bench, which will allow sophomore guard Maurice Jones to slide over to play shooting guard â his natural position according to OâNeill.
In spite of the dwindling numbers, things do not appear to be getting any easier for USC â at least not come Thursday.
Colorado (13-6, 5-2) has won eight of its last 10 games, including two consecutive wins over Arizona and Arizona State. The Buffaloes also start three seniors and have four players averaging in double figures in points in guard Carlon Brown (13.4), forward Andre Roberson (10.9), forward Austin Dufault (11.6) and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (10.8).
âWe know theyâre good,â OâNeill said. âWeâll have to play great to win.â
If there is any consolation it might be that Colorado is just 1-4 in road games this season, and of USCâs five wins this season, three have come within the friendly confines of the Galen Center.
But offensive difficulties continue to haunt OâNeillâs young squad, as it still ranks last in the conference in nearly every statistical category: points per game, field goal percentage and assists per game, among others.
âItâs real frustrating,â said freshman guard Byron Wesley, who is shooting just 38 percent from the field through 20 games this season. âOur shots just havenât been falling. We have to keep playing hard, keep playing defense and eventually these shots are going to fall.â
Wesley, who scored 15 points against Oregon State on 7-of-10 shooting, remains optimistic that the young unitâs offensive struggles will be alleviated sooner rather than later.
âThe key was staying focused,â Wesley said of his recent outburst. âIâve been getting good shots in some of these games and I just havenât been making them. So last game I was focused on making shots and not just getting them up.â
And though the Trojans have won just one game over the last two months, OâNeill insists it hasnât been because of any sort of lack of effort.
âThese guys go hard,â OâNeill said. âThey give us what they got. They give great effort. I couldnât be happier with their effort. They just havenât been rewarded with wins.â
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The game will not be televised but will be broadcasted exclusively on USCTrojans.com.