The USC Trojans ended their March Madness run with a three-point loss to Utah, finishing off their Pac-12 campaign with a record of 9-10 in the conference and 14-18 overall. After riding a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season, the Trojans faltered down the stretch, winning only two of seven to finish the season.
The Trojans had two opportunities to earn a .500 record this season, including a most recent loss to Cal Berkeley on February 17th, which sent USC towards a negative spiral. In a month full of ups and downs the Trojans could not capitalize on a prime opportunity to build a winning record, which would have given them ammunition to continue some form of play this week.
Here is a look at how the final month of the season unfolded for the Trojans, who finished 1-3. They now look towards the summer to begin preparation for another campaign at the Galen Center.
First Game: Arizona State 57-56 Victory
The Trojans came out firing from the opening tip, seizing their momentum from an impressive victory over No. 11 Arizona State. USC then started five seniors in the contest against ASU and jumped out to an early 19-point lead over the Sun Devils. From that point forward the offense went cold, as the Trojans could only muster 29 points in the final 25 minutes of action. Eric Wise, JT Terrell and Byron Wesley scored in double figures to ensure the one-point victory.
The game itself was full of peaks and valleys as the Trojans found a way to loose numerous double-digit leads, making for desperate times at the Galen center. Fans even booed the team when the Sun Devils cut the lead to three with 53 seconds to play. Wise made some clutch free throws to secure the lead, but the Trojans almos threw the game away as Chass Bryan made a critical turnover in the final seconds. Luckily for the Trojans, redshirt freshmen Jahii Carson could not convert a half-court shot securing the home sweep of the Arizona schools.
Senior Day Festivities:
Bob Cantu pulled his classiest move as interim head coach starting five seniors in this matchup. Tyler Sugiyama and James Blasczyk were the most inspirational stories of the day, as they were the biggest underdogs to achieve on this team. Aaron Fuller also started, showcasing his ability on the offensive glass as an integral role player on this club.
Jio Fontan struggled in his final home game, injuring his wrist in the second half and battling foul trouble throughout the contest. Fontan actually fouled out with under five minutes to play, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd for his three years of hard work and gutty determination for the Trojans.
The athletic department arraigned a great pre-game activity as the seniors walked out with their parents, families and friends out to center court to take photos with Pat Haden and Bob Cantu. The fans in attendance enjoyed one final opportunity to wish goodbye their six seniors who have finished their careers with the USC Trojans.
Washington/Washington State Games:
The USC Trojans were one game under .500, with a pivotal trip to Washington in sight for a chance to clinch a top-four seed in the tournament. USC came out flat in the first half against Washington, shooting under 35-percent in the first half. Defensively the Trojans played strong basketball but could not make the key stops down the stretch.
On the verge of pulling the upset, the Trojans held their final lead of the game with 12 minutes to play before going scoreless for the next five minutes, falling too far behind to mount the classic USC comeback. This tragic collapse spurned the team forward for their final matchup against Washington State, the team with the worst record in the conference heading into the final game.
The Washington State stage was fully set, but the Trojans were anything but prepared for the matchup in Pullman. USC fell considerably behind early and watched Brock Motum and Royce Woolridge dominate the Trojans with their impressive shooting. Motum finished the night with 31 points, singlehandedly outscoring the entire USC front court and making a victory nearly impossible.
Bar Fighting Incident:
News broke over the trip that two USC players, Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, were involved in a bar fight in Spokane Washington after being out past curfew following their loss to the Cougars. The LA Times reported that two players were linked to crimes at the bar according to the investigation of the Spokane police, cementing USC’s fears that these players were in fact involved in the incident.
The incident shed a negative light on the program, and gave Bob Cantu no choice but to suspend both players for the remainder of the season. We also learn that the Spokane bar was notorious for fights as other players have been provoked towards fighting alongside the two seven-footers. Either way, the scene leaves a sour note for the program that is ready to recover its already tainted image surrounding the recruiting scandal four years ago.
Pac-12 Tournament:USC vs. Utah in the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Trojans dominated the Utes by double digits in their final game under Kevin O’Neill, but nothing came easy in this matchup. Both teams started off slow from the field, looking to find their groove, something that has plagued USC teams in the past.
Once the second half rolled around, Utah built two double-digit leads as the Trojans once again played carefree basketball and started shooting their way back into the ball game. A crucial 12-0 run cut the lead to one in the final minutes before senior Jarred DuBois put the Utes over the top, ending the Trojans’ NCAA Tournament chances.
The Trojans were ineligible for the NCAA, NIT and CTI based upon their record and poor performance in the critical month of March, that previouslyhad the ability to work wonders for USC Basketball. Finally, the Trojans were not selected for the CBI Tournament, oficially ending their stake in the 2012-2013 season.
This year was full of controversy, and fading expectations for a team that actually made huge strides from their six-win campaign last season. The Trojans finish the season 14-18 with changes coming in the not too distant future as two starters leave, a head coaching search continues, and a change in philosophy could be coming for the entire basketball program.