This, my friends, was an absolute choke job.
For 35 minutes, we were clearly the better team. For five minutes, we were the worst team in college basketball -- and barring some kind of miracle run, this probably was the end of our hopes of earning a third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.
Why so glum after just one game? We had a chance to cement ourselves as a clear part of the middle third of the Pac-10, squarely on the bubble if we can get some more good wins down the stretch. Instead, we just got swept at home, in two games that were clearly winnable. We're now 11-8 overall, 3-4 in the Pac-10, and getting ready for four consecutive games away from home.
We are in trouble.
I'll go ahead and give credit where credit is due to USC. In those last five minutes, the Trojans' defense was masterful, consistently forcing the ball into our fourth or fifth options on offense and daring us to win with jump shots. There's a reason why they're one of the top teams in the country in 2-point percentage allowed.
Case in point: As hot as Caleb Forrest was on Thursday he was equally cold today. Yet there he was, tied for the team lead in shot attempts and playing 34 minutes. Credit USC for daring Forrest to beat them. Where UCLA got burned, USC looked brilliant, especially when you consider that Forrest is such a liability on the defensive glass.
But it never should have been that close. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, we absolutely dominated in every area but the scoreboard. We dissected USC's defense for some wide open looks, yet just couldn't make any shots. I said at halftime on the game thread that we would win this going away if we could even shoot halfway decently. I figured we would win anyway with just average shooting. Instead, we missed just about everything. You just can't do that and expect to win a Pac-10 game.
Thought Thursday hurt? This one hurts even moreso. USC is a team we clearly needed to beat, and we let it slip away.