Trojans fall victim to poor play, drop second straight

first_imgSuddenly the hottest team on the West Coast isn’t so hot anymore.USC kept it close for most of the night and led 50-43 with just under 10 minutes left to play, but California clawed back for a 67-59 victory Saturday at Haas Pavilion. After putting together an eight-game winning streak — and opening eyes around the country — the Trojans have cooled off in their last two contests, their loss to the Bears coming just three days after a 54-53 defeat at Stanford.Sloppy – Senior guard Dwight Lewis’s mistakes proved costly. – Avi Kushlan | Daily TrojanSloppy play and missed shots haunted the Trojans down the stretch, even as Cal grabbed control and went on a 24-9 run to close the game.Senior guard Dwight Lewis scored 20 points for USC (10-6, 2-2 Pac-10), but he also made two costly mistakes in the final four minutes. He turned the ball over when he committed a traveling violation, then missed badly on a twisting layup that would have cut the Bears’ lead to four.Redshirt junior forward Alex Stepheson added 12 points and sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic added 11, but the Trojans received little production from the rest of their team. Redshirt senior guard Mike Gerrity, USC’s usually reliable playmaker, finished with no assists and shot just two of eight from the field.California guard Jerome Randle led all scorers with 21 points. The Bears (10-5, 2-1) also got 20 points from forward Theo Robertson.Until a free throw by Randle made it 63-53 with 44 seconds left, neither team had been able to build much of a lead. The Bears jumped out to an 11-4 advantage in the first half but traded baskets with USC for most of the game.The difference came at the free-throw line, where the Bears finished 21 of 24. Meanwhile, the Trojans made just three trips to the stripe and went three of fiveThe Trojans began their recent run with a 51-37 victory over Sacramento State on Dec. 8. The Trojans pulled off a major upset by defeating then-No. 9 Tennessee 77-55 before traveling to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where they knocked off a 20th-ranked UNLV squad in the final to claim the tournament title.The team then began Pac-10 play on Dec. 31 with a 56-50 win against Arizona. Two days later, USC beat Arizona State in a 47-37 victory for the team’s first 2-0 conference start in three years.But the surging Trojans came up against a major roadblock just hours after beating the Sun Devils. On Jan. 3, the university announced self-imposed sanctions on the men’s basketball program for NCAA rules violations involving ex-player O.J. Mayo.The sanctions, which include a ban on postseason competition at the end of the season and a reduction of scholarships, put a serious damper on the Trojans’ unexpected run. USC also vacated all wins during the 2007-2008 season.last_img

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