Photo Gallery: Water Polo's Epic Fight

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USC men's water polo never goes quietly into the night. Down 7-4 heading into the final period of the NCAA Title Match, the Trojans stormed back to knot the game at 7-7 before eventually falling 9-8 to UCLA.

The atmosphere at UC San Diego matched the drama in the pool yesterday. Here are the John McGillen photos to prove it:

Photo Gallery: 4th Annual Community Bowl

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USC held its fourth annual Community Bowl on Saturday at El Sereno Middle School, in which over 140 student-athletes partnered with over 300 El Sereno students to beautify the school, practice good study habits and play games.

The focus of the day was mentorship on behalf of the Trojans, as representatives from nearly every sport spent one-on-one time with the middle school students. The entire day was a success with the students completing over 30 projects ranging from mural painting to flower planting to school clean up.

Here are the John McGillen photos from all of Saturday's activities:

Women's Volley Wrap

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USC women's volleyball's 2014 campaign came to an end Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as the No. 7 Tar Heels defeated the Women of Troy in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Click here for the match recap.

The four-set loss evened the Trojans record at an uncharacteristic 16-16 to end the season.  USC will return a talented core next year led by junior Samantha Bricio and sophomore Ebony Nwanebu.


First Four

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USC men's basketball is riding a four-game winning streak after overcoming Utah State 89-84 in a Sunday shootout at Galen Center. 

"We usually can't score 89 points with no one guarding us," head coach Andy Enfield joked after the game about the offensive outburst. "I was a little shocked that we made so many threes. We made 12 threes, but we've been playing much better offensively."

The Trojans are putting an entertaining product on the court featuring 30-foot alley oops and behind-the-back passes during this win streak. USC sits at 6-3 on the season with Army due up next at Galen Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Unlucky Seven

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During its run of six consecutive national championships, USC men's water polo never made it easy, but always prevailed at the end. The Trojans used the same script to come back from a three-goal deficit entering the final period against UCLA in Sunday's NCAA Title Match, but this time, the Bruins made the championship-winning play at the end.

Click here for the match recap.

The Trojans were left distraught but determined after failing to capture the NCAA crown for the first time since 2007. Jovan Vavic's young team was carried by senior Kostas Genidounias, but most of the squad will return next season motivated to start a new streak.

Here is the post-game press conference with match highlights:

3-Points: USC 89, USU 84

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Trojans battled with the Aggies down to the wire and emerged victorious, winning their fourth straight game of the season.

Click here for the recap and final stats.

Awesome Offense

The last time USC scored at least 85 points was November 12, 2013 vs. Cal State Northridge. On Sunday, the Trojans turned up the heat on offense, shooting 50 percent from the field with four players hitting double figures. Contributing to the awesome offensive effort was the Trojans' 22 total assists, led by Katin Reinhardt who had five assists in the first half. Also impressive, Darion Clark grabbed 13 of the team's 36 total rebounds (one off of his season-high mark).

Career Day

The win was also a career day for three Trojans as Nikola Jovanovic (23) and Strahinja Gavrilovic (13) tied their career-high scoring records and Jordan McLaughlin (21) set a new career-high mark. McLaughlin leads the team in scoring as a freshman averaging 11.9 points per game in the first eight games. Not only did these three players have career shooting days but the 50 percent shooting from the field is the best the team has shot all season. Head coach Andy Enfield has been increasingly impressed with Jovanovic's play this season. "I thought he underperformed most of the season and I thought he's really played well the last few games," he said. "You're starting to see the player we thought he'd be and the player he wants to be. He had an excellent game today, he has to keep improving. He has a terrific work ethic, so we expect him to develop into something special."

Heating Up

The Trojans are on a four-game winning streak heading into the holiday season with only three games left in 2014. In the past four games, the Trojans have had a different leading scorer, revealing the talented depth of the USC lineup. The current streak ties the Trojans' longest winning streak from last year when the team won four games from November 12 to 24. "We are definitely heading in the right place now with four wins in a row," said McLaughlin after the game. "We're getting better after every game, after every practice and after every film session. We are looking to keep going up, the sky's the limit."

Here are the SnappyTV highlights, including Julian Jacobs' monster alley oop:

USC Heads to Holiday

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For the first time in school history, USC will play in the National University Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego. The No. 25 Trojans are slated to square off against the No. 24 Nebraska Cornhuskers at 5 p.m. PT in Qualcomm Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Click here for ticket and travel information for the Holiday Bowl. Current USC football season ticket holders will receive an email regarding Holiday Bowl tickets on Sunday evening.

"We are excited to go play in the Holiday Bowl and be the first USC team to do so," said head coach Steve Sarkisian, whose 2010 Washington Huskies team defeated Nebraska, 19-7, in the Holiday Bowl. "We are hungry and determined to finish our season off well."

Click here for the full Holiday Bowl release.

The Trojans and Cornhuskers have faced each other just four times and USC holds the lead in the series 3-0-1. Nebraska is coming off an eventful 9-3 campaign that concluded with the dismissal of head coach Bo Pellini. Former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley will replace Pellini next season and the Cornhuskers will be coached by interim head coach Barney Cotton in the Holiday Bowl.

USC ended the 2014 regular season with an 8-4 record and is looking to use the momentum from a dominating win over Notre Dame to reach the nine-win mark in San Diego. Redshirt junior QB Cody Kessler is looking to set the USC season record for touchdown passes, and needs just four in the bowl game to do so.

Holiday Bowl Graphic.jpg

Bowl Prep Practice #3: Notes

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The Trojans will now await their bowl game fate after senior Andre Heidari nailed a 38-yard field goal to end practice early on Sunday. 
  • The past two days have been tough, competitive practices as head coach Steve Sarkisian wanted to keep his players in good shape for the bowl game despite not knowing their opponent. Today, USC ran 75 plays at a good tempo in only about an hour's time. Now, the players and coaching staff are waiting anxiously to hear who, where and when they will be playing. 
  • A lot of younger guys have seen more playing time this week as the coaching staff wanted to see some players in different roles. Sarkisian said on Sunday that he's been really impressed with Rahshead Johnson at corner, Chris Brown on the offensive line and OLB Malik Dorton's performance during the scrimmage portion of today's practice. 
  • The head coach also said that Sunday's practice was by far QB Max Browne's best practice as he saw some time with the ones in order to get a look at different receivers. Browne launched a few deep balls hitting freshman JuJu Smith who returned to practice Sunday after rolling his ankle on Friday. 
  • Su'a Cravens is another player who has been all over the field for the Trojans this season. The sophomore has had the most success at the Sam linebacker position racking up 62 tackles, including 16 for loss with five sacks on the season. Though Cravens is listed as a safety, the sophomore said he will spend the offseason getting in linebacker shape for next season. He also mentioned that he will need to spend time in the film room focusing on the playbook, but mainly on watching the offensive line. 
  • The College Football Playoff committee announced the four teams that will compete for the National Championship in the inaugural season of the new format on Sunday. The committee ranked Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State in that order which also happens to be the same order as Sarkisian said he voted in the coaches poll. The head coach then joked with the media, "But hey, what do I know? I'm just a coach."
  • Here is Sarkisian after Sunday's practice...

Seventh in Sight

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USC defeated Stanford, 12-11, in a thrilling double-overtime semifinal game on Saturday, and now has its seventh consecutive national title in sight. Senior Kostas Genidounias led the Trojans to victory with four goals, including the equalizer that sent the game to overtime and the sudden death game-winner with five seconds remaining on the clock.

Click here for the full game recap.

The Trojans take on the Bruins in the NCAA title match on Sunday at 3:10 p.m. PT. USC has defeated UCLA in three of the championship games in its run of six consecutive NCAA titles.

Here are the highlights and press conference from today's victory:

Bowl Prep Practice #2: Notes

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The Trojans ground out another tough, competitive practice on Saturday in preparation for their bowl game while championship games were played across the country. 
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian emphasized the necessity to keep the team's "competitive juices" flowing despite still not knowing their bowl game opponent. "I don't think you can just shut that off and then expect to turn it right back on," he said, talking about the team's competitive nature. 
  • Sarkisian is also using these practices to see the younger players in action as well as to test out players in new roles.  For example, the coaching staff felt like Chris Hawkins was "forced into action early" with Josh Shaw's suspension and freshman Adoree' Jackson still adjusting to playing at the next level. The past two days the redshirt freshman has been seeing a lot of time at safety recently coming up with a big interception in Saturday's practice that he returned for a touchdown. However, Sarkisian noted that if this move was going to be permanent, Hawkins would need to spend the offseason in the weight room to change his body in order to be physical enough to succeed as a safety. 
  • RB Justin Davis is another player whose number has been called a lot recently with the sophomore getting 19 carries for 81 yards in the Trojans' regular season finale against Notre Dame. Sarkisian credited Davis' recent success to his emphasis on holding onto the football. "The ball was coming out too frequently for my liking but we didn't give up on him. We put him right back in because we have to develop confidence that's part of our job," said the head coach. 
  • Justin Davis could be getting even more reps next year if redshirt junior RB Buck Allen decides to enter the NFL Draft. However, this is a decision that Allen and other draft-elligible Trojans have yet to even consider saying their only focus is on USC's bowl game. Sarkisian met with all draft-elligible players this week stressing "educated decisions" but both Allen and QB Cody Kessler have said they will apply for an evaluation just to see where they rank. 
  • This week Kessler was named a Manning Award finalist for the nation's best quarterback after finishing the regular season with 3505 yards on 413 attempts with a completion percentage of 70.7 percent. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton has been working with Kessler on his anticipation hoping to get the ball out of his hands quicker in order to help a young offensive line that's been hit hard this season. This also means focusing on knowing where his targets will be so that he can hit them that much quicker - something Kessler says comes with more reps especially with new starters like JuJu Smith and George Farmer.
  • Injury report: Freshman WR JuJu Smith rolled his ankle at Friday's practice so he sat out on Saturday; however, Sarkisian said it is not concerning at all. They just want to get him healthy in time for bowl game preparation. 
  • The Trojans had quite the number of visitors to practice on Saturday with the recruiting season in full force. Sarkisian said he's been enjoying the process a little more so than last year because they have more time now that he is finishing his first season as the USC head coach. "We have a few more spots than we have had so we have a few more visitors then we have had," said Sarkisian. "Last year we felt like we were rushing a little bit because we came in late. This time around we were able to cast a bigger net but that means we've got more people to evaluate and more relationships to forge."
  • Here is the head coach after Saturday's practice...