January 22, 2013 by David Blu
By David Blu
USC lost to No. 16 Oregon on Thursday by two points. The Trojans had three opportunities to win the game or push it to overtime, but were unable to hit a wide-open three or convert lay-ups around the basket.
On Saturday, the Trojans just barely beat Oregon State, a team that remains winless in the conference. The Beavers basically gave the ball and the game to USC after being up by one point with a few seconds left to play.
After the loss to the Ducks, I kept hearing that it was a “good loss” in order to give the team and fans encouragement going forward. If that’s the case, then did Saturday’s win against the worst team in the Pac-12 worry the Trojan faithful? The answer is a win is a win, and a loss is a loss, in any way that it happens.
USC showed a lot of character and fight in the game against U of O, taking a tough-nosed team that possesses a lot of talent down to the wire. After being down by seven points with two minutes to go in the game, the Trojans turned up the defense and made some critical plays on the offensive end to cut the lead to one, but were unable to close the gap and WIN the game. The Ducks are no more talented than the Trojans; they were just able to make some critical shots down the stretch and had a bit of luck on their side that night. Thursday’s game against the Ducks was the first night out under the guidance of new interim head coach Bob Cantu.
Two nights later against Oregon State, USC went into the locker room at the halftime break with a nine-point lead, hyped-up by James Blasczyk’s buzzer-beating put-back dunk. Unfortunately, the Trojans were lacking a killer instinct in their win over OSU after having a double-digit lead midway through the second half. SC came out in the second half and looked ready to play in the first few minutes, increasing the lead to 15 points. Just when it was time for the Trojans to put their foot on the Beavers’ neck, they let them up and allowed them to get back in the game and almost steal a W at the Galen Center.
Losing games against better opponents is admirable, winning a game against a superior team or stealing a W on the road is exceptional, but barely winning against a winless team at home is unacceptable. To make matters worse, Oregon State probably could have won the game had they gotten the ball inbounds with seconds remaining in the game.
There are no excuses for the poor second half play, especially in the turnover (13 in second half and 20 for the game) and free throw (60% in second half) categories. It is the end of January and well into conference play with the NCAA tournament just around the corner. If the Trojans want to play in the post season, they will have to develop some kind of meanness and killer instinct that will have to become habit ASAP.
Free throws, taking care of the ball, and rebounds are the keys to winning games. Wanting to destroy your opponent at all costs, with no regard, is the key to being a champion.