The Galen Center has had its moments


Saturday marked the final home game of the 2013-14 season for the USC men’s basketball team, and with it the final home game I (and every other soon-to-be-graduate) will ever attend as a student.

I must say, it’s been quite a ride.

This is my third and final year at USC (I transferred in after one year at Arizona State), and over the past three seasons I have borne witness to some truly frustrating basketball.

In the three years since USC’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, the Trojans have racked up a 22-27 home record, going 8-19 against Pac-12 foes, including three losses to rival UCLA by an average margin of 15 points.

Three different head coaches have graced the sidelines, though none kept the Trojans relevant late into the season. The latest date USC has held a winning record in three years was Jan. 26 of this year, when a 79-71 overtime loss to Stanford dropped the team’s record to 10-10 and served as the first of 10 consecutive losses, a streak that is still going strong.

Within the team’s current skid is the longest home losing streak at six games. USC’s average home attendance in the past three seasons is 4,189 people per game. Of the 49 home games in the last three seasons, only eight have filled the Galen Center to above 50 percent capacity.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s stop dwelling on the program’s many low points and try to focus on the positives (a tall task, to be sure, but it can be done). Here’s a look at the top five men’s basketball/Galen Center moments of the past three seasons.

5. Salute to a Legend

On Jan. 15, 2012, USC retired the jersey of its all-time leading scorer, Harold Miner. In his prolific three-year college career, Miner averaged more than 23 points per game and finished with 2,048 total points, both school records. Miner’s junior season, in which he averaged a single-season school record of 26.3 points per game, earned him the honor of being named Sports Illustrated magazine’s college basketball player of the year, beating out stars such as Duke’s Christian Laettner, LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal and Georgetown’s Alonzo Mourning.

Despite this being such a momentous occasion for Miner, there was little to cheer about on this night, as USC lost to UCLA 66-47. Still, it was a meaningful gesture for the greatest player in program history.

4. Top of the Standings

On its surface, USC’s 71-69 win over Stanford on Jan. 3, 2013 doesn’t seem like a big deal. The team won a close game against a respectable program thanks to clutch plays down the stretch. But this victory would mark the only time in the past three seasons that the Trojans were undefeated in Pac-12 play. This also served as USC’s last home win under former head coach Kevin O’Neill, who  Athletic Director Pat Haden fired 11 days later.

3. The First Step is the Hardest

It took him six chances, but current head coach Andy Enfield finally notched his first Pac-12 victory on Jan. 22, 2014 with a 77-69 win over Cal, which was unbeaten in conference play at the time. The Trojans never trailed throughout the night and saw a stellar performance from freshman forward Nikola Jovanovic, who flashed the promise of becoming a consistent offensive threat for Enfield moving forward.

Enfield has yet to reach his second win, but in a game that also saw key contributions from guards Byron Wesley and Julian Jacobs, the signs of hope for the future were on display.

2. End on a High Note

In the final home game of the 2012-13 season, USC held off a late ASU rally to seal a 57-56 victory. This game marked the last Galen Center appearance for several seniors, most notably point guard Jio Fontan.

Fontan transferred to USC in January of 2010 and was integral in leading the Trojans to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Fontan missed all of the 2011-12 season after tearing his ACL and had to watch from the bench as the team amassed a 6-26 record. He returned the next season and played in all 32 games, in which he served as a model team captain and beloved fan favorite.

This game also proved to be former interim head coach Bob Cantu’s last victory. USC went 7-8 under Cantu’s lead, and after losing to Utah in the first round of the 2013 Pac-12 Tournament, Haden named Enfield as Cantu’s replacement three weeks later.

 

1. Court Storming

 

Though fewer than 5,000 fans were on hand to see it, USC’s biggest win in the past three years came on Feb. 27, 2013, when the Trojans took down then-No. 11 Arizona.

USC never trailed in the second half and shot a scintillating 61.1 percent from the field. It was the program’s lone home victory over a ranked team in the last three years. For those who were there to storm the court in celebration of last year’s upset, that night ranks among the most memorable basketball moments.

 

I’ll be honest: Coming up with five joyful moments from home basketball games in the last three years was not that easy. There were plenty of blowout losses and comebacks that fell just short to sort through to find these five gems. But many of my fondest memories of my college experience took place at the Galen Center, even in watching the Trojans fight on in a losing effort. It might not have always been pretty, and at times it was downright painful, but I think there’s something to be gained from staying loyal to your team, even in defeat.

Besides, patience is one of the best life lessons you can learn in college, and it’s safe to say that I gained plenty of that during my nights spent watching this hard-luck team.

 

Nick Selbe is a senior majoring in communication. His column, “Inside the 20s,” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at nselbe@usc.edu.