Not surprisingly, the Trojans played excellent defense for most of the night. But in what has become an all-too-familiar scene, they fell flat on their faces on the other side of the ball.
Even on Senior Night, the USC men’s basketball team couldn’t muster enough energy to bounce back from a 10-point loss two days earlier to Oregon. The Trojans (16-12, 8-8) fell victim to yet another poor second-half effort, shooting a dismal 29 percent from the field and falling, 49-44 to Oregon State (13-15, 7-9) on Saturday at the Galen Center.
“Definitely not the way I envisioned us going out,” said senior guard Mike Gerrity, who led USC with 13 points on 4 of 12 shooting in his final home game.
Gerrity, senior guard Dwight Lewis, senior forward Marcus Johnson and redshirt junior forward Kasey Cunningham, who has decided not to return next season after multiple knee injuries, received a standing ovation in the pregame ceremony honoring the Trojans’ outgoing players.
But after Oregon State center Roeland Schaftenaar drained four late free throws and USC missed multiple last-minute shots, a hushed crowd at the Galen Center immediately headed for the exits.
“It was disappointing how the game turned out,” Lewis said. “You don’t want to leave a beautiful stadium with a loss.”
Like so many other teams, Oregon State struggled to put up points against the Trojans. But USC had even more issues facing the Beavers’ pesky zone defense, squandering an early 11-point lead and making just five shots in the second half.
“The zones we’ve come against have been active, getting in passing lanes and contesting shots and making us [commit] a lot of turnovers,” Lewis said.
When asked whether fatigue played a factor in the outcome, USC coach Kevin O’Neill didn’t have a definitive answer, saying instead that being tired would not pass as an excuse for the team’s poor play
The Trojans certainly looked tired for much of the game. Careless cross-court passes led to turnovers and easy scores for the Beavers. Shots caromed off the rim. Missed layups turned into fast break opportunities for Oregon State.
Though his coach and teammates wouldn’t admit the same, sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic agreed that USC was beginning to feel the toll of a physical season.
“We did feel a little tired and we don’t have a lot of rotations, so as time accumulated, we get worn out and we can’t keep up the same intensity for 40 minutes,” Vucevic said.
Other than Gerrity, only Lewis managed to score more than six points, finishing with 11. Sophomore forward Leonard Washington had six points and eight rebounds.
For the Beavers, guard Seth Tarver led all scorers with 14 points, making 6 of 9 shots from the field. Guards Calvin Haynes and Josh Tarver added eight points apiece.
USC entered halftime with a 25-24 lead. Sloppy play was an early trend for both teams, with the Trojans committing 12 turnovers and Oregon State giving up nine of its own before the break.
The Beavers seized control early in the second half, opening with an 11-4 run to take the lead for good. Gerrity’s layup with 34 seconds remaining cut the deficit to 46-44, but from there Oregon State closed out the game at the free-throw line.
“You’re supposed to win at home if you only give up 49 points,” O’Neill said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
With two games left, the Trojans will attempt to salvage what little remains of their season this week on the road against the Arizona schools. California defeated Arizona State on Saturday, ending USC’s hopes of earning a share of the Pac-10 regular season title.
“I think we got a bounce-back in us — one last one,” Lewis said.