The injuries are piling up, the losses are piling up, and the story gets older day by day. It’s a story that’s been told before. It’s a truth that’s been exacerbated over the last couple of weeks. The USC men’s basketball team is just not good. The team has struggled mightily this season.
And whenever I think the season can’t get any worse, it does.
USC’s big rivalry game against UCLA at the Galen Center ended in a 19-point drubbing at home in front of a season-high crowd of 8,474.
The team has lost multiple players to injuries. First, it was redshirt sophomore forward Curtis Washington (shoulder) and senior guard Jio Fontan (knee) in the preseason. Then, redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith (shoulder) in mid-December and now redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller (shoulder). Fontan was the team’s leading scorer last year. Fuller ranks second on the team in scoring and leads the team in rebounding this season.
Currently, the Trojans are mired in a nine-game losing streak, their worst losing streak in more than 20 years. They have lost 14 of their last 15 games. Their last home win came more than a month ago while many of us were enjoying winter break. Their last road win came more than three months ago during Thanksgiving break.
It isn’t time to label this season an overall failure, though.
For 19- and 20-year old young adults to play through these circumstances signifies unwavering strength. USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s ability to power through while critics hit him left and right is admirable. He’s working with the hand he was dealt, and the rest of his coaching staff has been faithfully at his side.
Not many collegiate programs would be able to compete on a nightly basis if dealt the same situation. O’Neill and his staff have done what they can.
No matter how hard it is to look past the glaring negatives, the season has elicited bright spots here and there. They might be few and far between, but they’re there.
Defensively as a unit, USC has held its opponents to just 58 points per contest, good for 14th in the nation. The Trojans began the season holding their first 19 opponents to 66 points or less, which hadn’t happened since the 1948 season when that USC squad kept all its opponents under that mark.
Offensively, it might be hard to tell, but the progress is there individually. Redshirt Sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon notched a career-high 18 points last week in a narrow three-point loss at Oregon. Freshman guard Byron Wesley similarly recorded a career-high 15 points at Oregon State.
I don’t care what shows up in the box score on a night-to-night basis, though, and I don’t care what the statistics say. Any lofty expectations should be forgotten. Fans, alumni and students should admire this team for who they are outside of the win and loss column.
This season isn’t going to change drastically. The team isn’t going to suddenly get infinitely better overnight. To keep thinking of what could have been if this or that happened isn’t going to change anything, either.
Sure, it’s been a trying season, but taking away nothing would be for naught. If anything, this team has taught us a valuable lesson, and it’s what embodies the Trojan spirit.
As always — no matter the circumstances — Trojans fight on
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