Trojans unable to make it three in a row

The teams traded jabs for most of the night, but the Washington Huskies landed a haymaker late in the second half to defeat the USC men’s basketball team, 65-57, in Seattle on Wednesday. The Trojans (14-16, 9-8 Pac-12) led or were tied with the Huskies for a majority of the game, but a nearly seven minute-long scoring drought — from the 12:32 mark to the 5:43 mark in the second half  after junior forward Dewayne Dedmon checked out with his fourth foul — ended up tilting the contest in the Huskies’ favor.

Shooting struggles · Senior point guard Jio Fontan (above) was 2-of-10 from the floor in USC’s loss against the Washington Huskies.  - Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan

Shooting struggles · Senior point guard Jio Fontan (above) was 2-of-10 from the floor in USC’s loss against the Washington Huskies. – Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan

After missing their first five free throws, an area they’ve struggled with all season, the Huskies made their last 17, preventing any sort of late run by the Trojans.

“I don’t know what it was,” senior point guard Jio Fontan said. “Once they got to the free-throw line, they started to knock them down every time.”

Though the Trojans’ defense held the Huskies to just 36.1 percent shooting, USC’s offense wasn’t much better, shooting just 37.5 percent. Neither team held much of an advantage in any statistical category, except for one: The Huskies dominated the glass. Washington had 19 offensive rebounds and controlled the boards 48-29, which proved costly for the Trojans.

“There were a lot of long rebounds and they did a great job getting the basketball, which gave them extra possessions,” USC inteirm head coach Bob Cantu said. “We held them at 36 percent from the field, but we weren’t able to get stops at the right time and they were able to open up the game, which I thought was a big part.”

Dedmon was the one force for whom the Huskies had no answer. He tied his career-high with 18 points (9-of-11 shooting), most of which came off put-back dunks and impressive hook shots. Junior guard J.T. Terrell had 16 points, including going 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.

Fontan struggled with his right hand injury (shooting 2-of-10) but served as the Trojans’ key facilitator, racking up seven assists and creating many high-percentage looks.

“It was real tough,” Fontan said. “I couldn’t really shoot the ball, and I couldn’t drive to my right. They did a good job of catching on to it in the second half and they made adjustments.”

The turning point of the game was when Dedmon sat out after picking up his fourth foul. The Trojans’ offense began to stall, and the Huskies used a 13-2 run to turn a two-point deficit into a seven-point lead. After that, there wasn’t much hope for USC.

Washington senior guard Scott Suggs led the Huskies with 18 points and nailed a 3-pointer off a double screen on an out-of-bounds play to give the Huskies a decisive 48-41 lead with 6:09 remaining.

Redshirt freshman forward Jernard Jarreau also chipped in a career-high 12 points off the bench. There was one bright spot for USC: junior guard C.J. Wilcox was held in check, scoring just 11 points on  2-of-9 shooting.

“I thought we played well, but to win on the road and to win at Washington, you have to play a lot better,” Cantu said.

The loss is very disappointing for a few reasons besides another ‘L’ in the standings.

First, the Trojans handled the Huskies at the Galen Center on        Feb. 10 with relative ease, winning 71-60 behind a dominant first half. For whatever reason, USC just couldn’t replicate its success from a month earlier.

Second, the loss all but ensured that USC won’t finish in the top four of the Pac-12, preventing them from having a first-round bye. Still, the Trojans know they can’t make excuses and have to win the Pac-12 tournament to have a shot at playing in the NCAA tournament.

“In our situation and what our record is, [we’ve] got to be able to take advantage of going to Vegas and see what we can do,” Cantu said. “[We’ve] got one more opportunity to work on our stuff until that gets started.”

The Trojans are in a three-way tie with Washington and Arizona State for the six-seed. Washington holds the tiebreaker among the three teams.

The loss also halted some of the precious momentum the Trojans had gathered by winning six of their past eight games in remarkable fashion. Over that stretch, they averaged 69.5 points per game, shot 44.5 percent from the field and outrebounded their opponents by a plus-44 margin, 283-239.

None of that happened on Wednesday.

Next up for the Trojans are the Washington State Cougars, who are fresh off a shocking upset over the No. 23 UCLA Bruins. Though the Cougars have been the  bottom- dwellers of the Pac-12 for most of the season, it’s clear that the Trojans shouldn’t take them lightly. Last time these two teams met, the Trojans eked out a four-point victory, so it won’t be as easy as it looks on paper.

“They’re a different type of team than Washington,” Cantu said. “They run [a] great offense. We have two days here, so we have to regroup, watch film and see things that we need to work on individually and then put together our game plan for WSU on Saturday.”