Whatever chance the USC men’s basketball team had at notching its first Pac-12 win of the season Thursday against Colorado took a serious hit less than five minutes into the contest.
On a drive to the basket, sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon’s knee collided with an opposing defender, causing the 7-footer to fall to the floor in pain.
Dedmon would not return to the court and was later diagnosed with a sprained knee, leaving USC (5-16, 0-8) with just six available scholarship players.
With an alarming lack of depth, the Trojans were essentially hopeless against visiting Colorado (14-6, 6-2), which ran off 37 first-half points en route to a 74-50 victory in front of an announced crowd of 3,147 at the Galen Center.
“All this injury stuff has caught up to us,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “Without Dewayne in there, we’re just outmanned. We’re playing two walk-ons in our rotation. Every player on our team is playing more minutes than they can handle right now.”
The Trojans, whose last win came on Dec. 19 against Texas Christian, were in a hole early, as the Buffaloes opened the game on a 7-0 run. Their first point didn’t come until Dedmon knocked down a free throw about three minutes into the opening half.
USC shot just 33 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes of action, while Colorado put up a solid 12-of-24 shooting performance, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range, en route to an 11-point lead at the break.
That lead would only balloon in the second half.
“Colorado is a good basketball team,” O’Neill said. “They have vets. They have depth and they deserve to win.”
Five players would finish with double-figure point totals for the Buffaloes.
With Dedmon on the bench wearing a brace on his knee for the remainder of the game, the Trojans never got going on offense, as they registered 24 points over the course of the final 20 minutes. Collectively, they shot 32 percent from the field for the entire game.
“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t,” O’Neill said. “We don’t have a junior, senior class to anchor the team and we don’t have the kind of depth to sustain the kind of injuries we’ve had.”
Most of the scoring that did occur derived largely from sophomore guard Maurice Jones and freshman Byron Wesley, who finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively. It marked the second consecutive game Wesley finished in double figures.
“Byron’s going to be a really, really good player,” O’Neill said. “I don’t have any question about it. He’s playing the four spot and playing 40 minutes. He’s playing hard.”
Unfortunately for Jones and Wesley, they don’t have much help left, as Dedmon became the latest player to be sidelined with an injury.
“We just have to figure out how everybody can step up and do different things to help fill the void,” Dedmon said.
Though the status of the sophomore forward, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Friday, is unknown, four players have already been sidelined with season-ending injuries in senior guard Jio Fontan, redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, sophomore forward Curtis Washington and redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith.
“We’re pinned,” O’Neill said. “There are no moves right now. There’s no quick fix. We’re adding a ton of players next year and have a ton of guys returning.”
But there are still 10 games left in conference play this season, and on Saturday, the Trojans host Utah in what might prove to be their best chance to grab a win in conference play.
The Utes (5-15, 2-6), who earlier in the season registered an eight-game losing streak of their own, have yet to win a game on the road this season and recently dismissed their leading scorer, senior guard Josh Watkins. Watkins had been averaging 15.6 points and 4.8 assists on the season.
Tip-off at the Galen Center is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.