Trojans End Long Season With Third Loss to UCLA
Despite being heavily outmanned and outside in their Pac-12 Tournament first round matchup with rival UCLA, Kevin O’Neill’s squad held their own for the first 16 minutes of play on Wednesday afternoon.
Led by stingy team defense and timely buckets from forwards Byron Wesley and Garrett Jackson, USC held a 21-13 lead with 3:38 to play in the first half.
But in a fashion similar to the rest of their 2011-2012 season, things slowly began to unravel for the Trojans.
"The way the first half ended set us up for failure in the second half," O’Neill said. "It put us in the position where they had the momentum."
The Bruins scored the final nine points of the first half and never looked back, taking the game with ease, 55-40. After coming out of the locker room, UCLA went on a 20-8 run, extending their lead to 13.
"They’re bigger than us in every spot," said O’Neill. "Depth-wise, we didn’t really have an answer to their size. I think they’re one of the best front lines in the whole country."
Depth was particularly an issue in the frontcourt where twins David and Travis Wear took over the game in the paint. They finished with a combined 20 points and 18 rebounds.
On top of their inability to match UCLA’s size, the Trojans struggled offensively for the majority of the afternoon.
"We obviously played a decent game but it’s really hard to win when you shoot 28 percent," said O’Neill. "But, that’s kind of been the story of our year."
In defeat, the Trojans were led by Jackson and Wesley, who scored 11 and 13 points respectively.
"Despite all these injuries, it still hurts," said Jackson. "Today’s game really hurt. Even though we had this season, now we just need to start moving on. I’m just going to try to come in next year as a better player."
This season has been particularly difficult for the Trojans to swallow. Just last year the team was preparing for an appearance in the NCAA tournament while this year’s squad won’t have a chance to taste postseason play.
With a slew of injuries and only one win in conference play, O’Neill and Co. won’t waste any time in preparing to right the ship next season.
"We have a lot to look forward to," said O’Neill. "I always tell players that every season is a journey and sometimes the journey is great, sometimes up and down, sometimes bad. This was a bad journey for us. But a lot of positives are going to come out of it. We will appreciate winning a whole lot more going forward."