On Sunday night, USC was presented with an opportunity to upend UCLA in front of a season-high crowd of 8,474 at the Galen Center. Instead, the Trojans lost their sixth straight game in blowout fashion, 66-47. The loss dropped USC to 5-13 overall and 0-5 in Pac-12 play. The Trojans shot a dismal 18-50 (36 percent) from the floor and were outrebounded by the Bruins 44-19.
“We’re struggling to score, obviously, it’s been one of our problems all year,” coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We don’t make enough [shots].”
Only one Trojan, sophomore Maurice Jones, reached double figures with 13 points. Meanwhile, the Bruins got strong contributions from sophomore redshirt Travis Wear, senior Lazeric Jones, and sophomore redshirt David Wear, who poured in 19, 15, and 13 points respectively.
“I think [UCLA is] an ever-improving team,” O’Neill said. “It would appear to me that these guys have really started to move in the right direction as a group. They’ve got some weapons on the front line that are tough to deal with.”
Initially, the matchup between cross-town rivals was fairly competitive. USC jumped out to a 6-2 lead and found themselves tied with UCLA at 9-9 a little more than midway through the first half. The Bruins, however, went on a 28-10 run going into halftime and cruised the rest of the way for the victory.
“We have to give UCLA credit. They came out and played a great game and we didn’t match their energy,” freshman guard Alexis Moore said.
The Bruins (10-7, 3-2 in the Pac-12) shot a blistering 64 percent in the first half, helping them open up a big advantage. They only outscored USC by one point in the final twenty minutes, but it was too little, too late for the Trojans.
“Honestly, we embarrassed ourselves, we did a disservice to the university in our effort and how we played,” freshman guard Alexis Moore said.
Coach O’Neill was blunt about the state of his team, now losers of nine of their last ten games.
“We’ve been bit [sic] by this injury bug, combined with losing a couple of recruiting classes, we are what we are,” O’Neill said.
The “injury bug” most recently afflicted junior redshirt forward Aaron Fuller and junior center James Blasczyk, both of whom were unable to practice all week leading up to the game against UCLA. Even so, Coach O’Neill refused to make any excuses following the loss.
“What we’ve got to do is get back to work tomorrow, try to get better and move forward,” O’Neill said. “We obviously didn’t play well tonight.”
The lone bright spot for the Trojans came at halftime, when USC’s all-time leading scorer, Harold Miner, had his jersey retired by the university. Miner scored 2,048 points in three seasons (1989-1992) and was Sports Illustrated’s college basketball player of the year in 1992.
“[Miner’s] a great guy,” O’Neill said. “He’s a first-class individual in every way. I think it was an honor to have him back here.”
USC will travel to Oregon this week to take on the Ducks (13-5, 4-2) on Thursday and the Oregon State Beavers (11-7, 1-5) on Saturday. The Trojans know there is plenty of work to be done if they want to turn things around.
“Offensively, there’s still some things we need to work on,” Moore said. “But one thing we have tried to do is remain together as a team, because no one else is going to have our back except the guys in the locker room and the staff that works with us.”