USC Falls to Cal, But There’s Plenty to Like

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January 6, 2013 by Jacob Freedman

By Jacob Freedman

The Trojans are not awful on the hardwood, but it might be too soon to call them good. After keeping it close almost all night, the Trojans faltered down the stretch in a 72-64 home defeat at the hands of Cal. USC falls to 6-9 on the year, and is now 1-1 in Pac-12 play.

In a winnable game, USC’s poor free throw shooting and Cal’s ability to answer every Trojan basket in crunch time proved to be too much for the Trojans to overcome. Plus, Cal’s Allen Crabbe had more points (25) than his jersey number (23). No bueno.

First off, Crabbe destroyed the Trojans in the second half. The Pac-12’s leading scorer scored 11 straight Cal points midway through the second frame, and burned through Wesley for an easy score on multiple occasions. Crabbe was, bar none, the best scorer on the court tonight and finished with 25 points on eight of 11 shooting.

What killed USC tonight even more was their abysmal free throw shooting. An 8 for 18 (44.4%) debacle at the stripe absolutely murdered the Trojans’ chances to get ahead in a very winnable game. Wesley missed a pair down the stretch, Fuller went one for four from the stripe, and Oraby continued his charity stripe woes (55% this year) with a one for three showing. I foresee a lot of free throw-induced suicide drills in the Trojans’ practice schedule next week.

There was a lot to love from the Trojans despite the loss. It took a season and a half, but Dewayne Dedmon is making a name for himself on the offensive end. Dedmon hit an 18-foot jumper and a turn-around fadeaway early, and continues to position himself well for easy baskets in the paint. He finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds to finish with his first career double-double. Add in four blocks  and this might be his best outing in a USC uniform.

Byron Wesley also had an impressive performance on the offensive end. His tenacity and eagerness to drive into the paint was rewarded tonight, and finished with 13 points, his second-highest total all year. Wesley thrives off the dribble and on the fast break, and is a perfect secondary scoring option right now for coach Kevin O’Neill.

Finally, another solid performance for Fontan. His shooting numbers weren’t great (4-12), but Fontan is taking less wild shots than he did early in the season. Even better, he’s finding a groove while leading an offense that seems to be finally coming together. USC did a splendid job passing in the half court to find the open man, and finished with a season-low six turnovers. Players did a better job of not forcing shots, and the Trojans created solid opportunities as a result. This team is not an elite shooting unit, but is looking miles ahead offensively of what we saw offensively in the early going.

Renaldo Woolridge also made an appearance as the second sub in off the bench. He missed all three of his shots, but showed hustle and some good defensive intensity that might earn him another five minutes next game. For the first time all season, J.T. Terrell didn’t see a second of playing time. He, along with Ari Stewart and apparently James Blascyzk, must be getting uncomfortably cozy in O’Neill’s doghouse.

The Colorado Buffaloes are up next, and I hope you all are as curious as I am to see how this new Trojan team performs in their first Pac-12 road game.

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