Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turnaround Time in Los Angeles?

After USC's shocking road victory against UCLA on Saturday, the Trojans could be on the verge of turning their season around. It was their second straight Pac-10 win after starting the conference season 0-3, as they defeated Washington at home last weekend by 15. If USC had dropped this one, it risked falling to 2-5 or 1-6 as the Trojans still have to travel to Oregon State and Oregon in the upcoming week. Furthermore, a rough start like that could have meant the Trojans were more than likely to miss the NCAA Tournament in O.J. Mayo's first -- and only -- season in college.
However, after the upset win, all the NIT talk seems to be behind them. The Trojans overcame 19 turnovers and a 20-8 offensive rebounding disadvantage to go on a 21-6 run to end the game and emerge from Pauley Pavillion victorious. UCLA was held scoreless for the final two minutes. "They're a team that will be in the NCAA Tournament," Bruins head coach Ben Howland said to reporters afterwards. The Trojans shot an unbelievable 61 percent from the floor and held UCLA to just 33 percent shooting.
USC was carried by stud freshman Davon Jefferson, who finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and had the game-clinching dunk over UCLA freshman star Kevin Love. On the other side, UCLA's Russell Westbrook was just 2-11 from the field and finished with five turnovers. Starting forwards Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were a combined 1-11 for three points. USC constantly switched defenses, confusing the UCLA offense, mixing man-to-man with a triangle-and-two zone on Darren Collison and Josh Shipp.
Most importantly for USC, the team was not simply the O.J. Mayo show tonight. He took just 12 shots -- more than four below his season average -- and did not force too much offensively. Mayo also finished with four assists. However, CBS commentator Billy Packer seemed thoroughly unimpressed. Said Packer of Mayo: "He's not great; he's just good." If that's what it takes for USC to be successful, though, then Mayo should settle for just being "good."
USC should now be confident heading into its next two games on its Oregon road trip. After that, things get a little easier -- if you can even say that in the loaded Pac-10. With seven of the Trojans' final 11 games at home, and a win at UCLA in their back pocket, USC went from being a longshot for the NCAA Tournament to becoming a team that will be a force to be reckoned with come March in the span of just a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon.
Photo Credit: LA Daily News

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