It wasn’t exactly the start the USC men’s basketball team had hoped for.
Facing first-place Washington, the Trojans (6-24, 1-16) gave up a season-high 40 points in the first half before eventually falling by a score of 80-58 — their eighth consecutive loss and 16th in the last 17 games.
The Huskies, who clinched a share of the Pac-12 regular season title on Thursday, started the game on a 13-4 run, silencing much of the announced crowd of 2,763 at the Galen Center. USC would, as a result, struggle to recover.
“They have too much for us,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “Top to bottom, they have experience. If I was going to be in the NCAA tournament, I wouldn’t want to play those guys. They’ve gotten better. They’ve improved.”
Despite the discrepancy in talent, the Trojans would whittle away at the Huskies’ 14-point halftime lead — at least somewhat in the early goings of the second half. Following a made free throw from junior center James Blasczyk with 13:03 left in game, they trailed by just nine, the lowest since the 13-minute mark of the first half.
But on its next three possessions, the Huskies amassed seven points, ballooning its lead to a near-insurmountable 16-point-advantage midway through the final period.
“We needed to get it to five to have a chance,” O’Neill said. [They] stretched it out and made it hard for us.”
Guard Terrence Ross, who finished with a team-high 18 points started the 7-0 run with a 3-pointer, followed by a pair of baskets from guard C.J. Wilcox and center Aziz N’Diaye.
Making things even tougher for the Trojans’ comeback hopes was rebounding, or more so a lack thereof, as they were out-rebounded 49-23.
“We miss so many shots that people get more defensive rebounds,” O’Neill said. “And tonight, they’re just bigger and stronger than us at every position. That’s all there is to it. We don’t have the capability to outrebound people right now.”
One player who didn’t miss much was freshman guard Byron Wesley, who notched a career-high 23 points — the second straight game he finished with more than 20.
“There’s definitely some positives of our situation,” said Wesley, who hoisted 18 shot attempts. “I’m getting lots of minutes and touches. But at the end of the day, we want to win games.”
Over the last three games, he has averaged 21 points.
“I really like how he attacks the basket,” O’Neill said. “If he becomes a knock-down shooter, he’ll be a guy who can play for a long, long time.”
Wesley was among three Trojans to finish in double-figures. Sophomore forward Garrett Jackson finished with 14 points, the seventh time in his last 12 starts he has finished with more than 10 points, and Blasczky had 10 — a career-high. Sophomore guard Maurice Jones also chipped in with four assists.
The Trojans conclude the regular season on Saturday against Washington State at the Galen Center. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 3 p.m. and will be streamed on USCTrojans.com. O’Neill’s squad has not won since Jan. 28 and will look to notch what would be its second win in conference play.
“Nobody is enjoying this, let’s face it,” O’Neill said. “But it is what it is.”
USC lost to the Cougars (14-15, 6-11) 60-53 earlier this season in Pullman, Wash.