It was less than two weeks ago that USC coach Andy Enfield noted that, if not for a 55-foot shot by Stanford’s Daejon Davis, his team would been in first place in the Pac12 Conference. Three consecutive losses later, the Trojans are backsliding at the worst possible time.
The Trojans lost 81-67 at Arizona on Saturday night, two days after blowing a late 10-point lead at Arizona State and a week after narrowly falling at rival UCLA. Win any of those games and USC (17-9, 8-5) could have been atop the Pac-12 standings, instead it is two games back of first-place Arizona.
It is also far less certain of making the NCAA tournament, something that seemed almost like a lock two weeks ago before USC started its current skid.
Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s loss:
The recent defensive effort has been lacking
USC allowed Arizona to shoot 56.1 percent overall and 45 percent from 3-point range, the Wildcats making more than 59 percent of their shots in the second half. That’s the third time in Pac-12 play a Trojan opponent shot better than 50 percent, the others were UCLA (50.9 percent) and Washington (67.3 percent).
Arizona State shot only 42.2 percent but it made its last three shots in the final minute in that collapse.
The Trojans allowed 1.246 points per possession, the third straight game over 1.0. In starting 8-2 they gave up more than a point per possession only four times.
Jordan McLaughlin needs to be more aggressive
Jordan McLaughlin is the unquestionable leader for USC, a senior guard who leads the conference in assists and passed the 1,500-point mark for his career on Saturday. He had 16 points against Arizona but took only nine shots, attempting just one in the first half.
Yes, McLaughlin did sit the final 8:20 of the first half after picking up his second foul but before that he didn’t show much assertiveness. As a result, USC was down 37-31, but he scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first 7 minutes of the second half as the Trojans pulled within 48-47.
McLaughlin’s next shot, a made 3-pointer, came with 1:02 left. He went to the line a few times in between and dishes out and had some assists but when he’s not also looking for his own shot USC’s offense lacks flow.
What happened to Jordan Mathews?
One of the top sixth men in the country, Jordan Mathews has had five of his nine double-figure scoring games in Pac-12 play including four times in five games after getting moved out of the starting lineup. But in USC’s three-game losing streak he’s scored 16 total points, going scoreless against Arizona in 12 minutes.
Mathews fouled out in 13 minutes against Arizona State and was 2 for 7 from 3-point range against UCLA.
Bench scoring has been a big part of USC’s success this season and Mathews was at the forefront of that push, averaging 9.6 points per game during the 8-2 start. His scoreless effort Saturday was part of a paltry 7-point effort from the Trojans’ reserves.
The post USC drops third straight; What we learned from Trojans’ 81-67 loss at Arizona appeared first on Diehards.
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