USC defense isn’t enough to stop Cougars

Last time it was Klay Thompson carrying the load. This time it was everyone else.

Despite holding the Washington State sophomore star Thompson to just two points on 0-12 shooting, the USC men’s basketball team (16-10, 8-6) fell once again to the Cougars, this time on the road 51-47.

Frustrating · Senior guard Dwight Lewis and the Trojans held Washington State to just 38 percent field goal shooting on Saturday but struggled to produce much offense of their own against the Cougars. Lewis led the Trojans with 14 points. - Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

Washington State guards freshman Reggie Moore and sophomore Abe Lodwick filled in for their teammate’s lack of scoring, posting 12 and 11 points, respectively, including a combined 12 points in the final five minutes of the game. Moore banked a three-pointer with 51.4 seconds left, giving the Cougars a four-point advantage that proved to be enough to hold off USC.

The Trojans’ road struggles continued largely because of poor shooting; they converted only 38 percent of their shots from the field and went a dismal two for 14 from three-point range. Senior guard Dwight Lewis led the team with 14 points, and sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic added 12 points and seven rebounds, but a collective eight points from the rest of the starters doomed USC in the end.

“We played very selfishly … for the first time in a long time,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill told the Los Angeles Times. “I thought guys were worried about themselves a little bit too much, whether they were in the game or not. We never got down to playing basketball until the last three or four minutes.”

The two teams’ offensive weaknesses kept the score knotted throughout the entire first half (neither squad ever led by more than four points). USC jumped to a 2-0 lead 23 seconds into the game on a layup by redshirt junior forward Alex Stepheson but did not score again for four and a half minutes. The Cougars were only able to convert two points in the first five minutes as well, and by the midway point of the first half the score was a meager 8-6 in favor of Washington State.

The first half closed on a better note offensively, and the Cougars took a 23-19 advantage into the break.

The second half once again featured a glaring lack of offense from USC, but this time it was not reciprocated by the Cougars. The Trojans managed only four points in the first six and a half minutes as Washington State took a nine-point lead and, despite a determined rally in the final minutes, the Trojans were not able to recover. A three-pointer attempt by Lewis to tie the game with seven seconds left that clanked off the iron sealed the loss for USC, which is now 2-7 on the road.

The defeat drops USC into sole possession of third place in the Pac-10, one and a half games behind conference-leading California. The Trojans have four games left to play, two of which will be at home, but will need help from the teams above them to have a chance of winning the Pac-10.