Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
For the third consecutive game, the Trojans failed to do the little things in crunch time (out-scored 15-4 to end the game), as they fell 42-36 to the Cal Poly Mustangs at the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon.
Kevin O'Neill said he would prefer that his 1-3 team start learning lessons in victory, rather than defeat, but Saturday's disappointing finish leaves the Trojans with several key areas to improve upon over the course of non-conference play.
- USC's inability to box out down the stretch cost them on Saturday. As has been the case in USC's three losses this season, ball watching at the defensive end proved to be the team's fatal flaw. Despite a sizable height advantage in the post with Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, USC was manhandled on the glass when it mattered most. The Mustangs were relentless on the boards for all 40 minutes, out-rebounding the Trojans 41-32. To make matters worse, Cal Poly managed to snag 16 boards at the offensive end, including four crucial ones over the final five minutes of play. "Our guys are not boxing out or going to get the ball," O'Neill said. "All of them are ball watchers. We don't go rebound, we don't go in with that hit first mentality. And because of that we lost the game tonight. Guys need to toughen up, because we are soft. We are extremely soft right now."
- Aaron Fuller continues to be the lone bright spot for the Trojans. On an afternoon when the Trojans' offense shot an abysmal 12-for-38 from the field, Fuller once again proved to be a model of consistency. Despite being trapped in the paint all game long by the Mustangs' matchup zone, the redshirt junior transfer from Iowa was an absolute pest at both ends of the court, scoring a game-high 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. "Without Aaron [Fuller], we'd be in real trouble," said O'Neill. "He's becoming a go-to guy for us, obviously. He plays hard all the time. It's not coincidental that he's the only junior or senior on this team with any kind of experience at this level. And, he's playing like it. I couldn't be more proud of his effort."
- Dewayne Dedmon is still struggling to become a legitimate threat in USC's offense. USC's 1-3 start can be attributed to a dozen different issues, but offensively the team has not developed an advantage in the post. On Saturday, Dedmon never got into a rhythm, as he picked up two quick fouls in the first half. In the second half, he didn't even attempt a shot, finishing with just one point to go along with five rebounds. "I've said from the beginning [Dewayne Dedmon] is going to be picked in the NBA draft at some point, and I have also said its going to be a long time from now," said O'Neill. "He needs to develop as a player. The best way for him to get involved is to go get the ball off the boards."
- Heading into Saturday's tussle with Cal Poly, Maurice Jones was shooting just 29% from the field through three games. Against the Mustangs, Jones looked to create for himself but couldn't by a bucket. He finished with six points on a season-worst 1-for-11 performance.
Aaron Fuller discussed the team's current state of embarrassment along with his own frustrations about the lack of preparation that took place before their game against Cal Poly...