USC Suffers Embarrassing Collapse in Heartbreaking Loss to Washington
Trojans lose 22-point lead in second leg of Washington roadtrip
It started off so well. USC was moving the ball with fluidity and swagger, something we’ve come delightfully more accustomed to with this new brand of basketball in Southern California.
Bennie Boatwright three pointers. Immaculate escapes resulting in acrobatic lay ups from Jordan McLaughlin. And of course, high-flying poster dunks from Julian Jacobs. They were all on display Sunday as the Trojans were firing on all cylinders at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mid-way through the second half, USC led the Washington Huskies 66–44 with 14:18 remaining in the game.
College basketball experts alike, such as Jeff Goodman and Kevin Pelton of ESPN, were giving USC the highest of praises. As were the commentators on the Pac-12 network.
Pelton called USC, while admitting he hasn’t seen everyone yet, a potential top-3 team in the conference. Goodman noticed the increase in talent. The television broadcasters called USC a tournament team.
USC were a miracle collapse away from a resounding and convincing road win. Victory would have seen the Trojans sweep the state of Washington and quite possibly put them on the NCAA tournament selection committee’s radar — if they weren’t there already.
Unfortunately for USC that collapse did come, and it was not one that could be blamed on one particular play, aspect or injury. An injury would play the part though.
Up 19, Julian Jacobs came down off a rebound and turned his ankle as he stepped on teammate Nikola Jovanovic’s foot. He limped off with the help of his teammates. Jacobs did not return to the game, but the Huskies did.
A 24–5 run re-energized a team in Washington that had needed two overtimes to defeat UCLA on Friday night.
The run also re-energized a game that was looking the part of a blowout. The Trojans had seven turnovers during that run. But USC took the punches and delivered one of their own, as a McLaughlin lay up saw USC up 74–68 with only 5:19 left and in the double bonus.
For the remaining 5:19 USC went 3–6 from the FT line, while the Huskies hit 7–11. But it was an exhausted McLaughlin, the lone ball handler to deal with the Huskies ferocious pressing, that turned the ball over on back-to-back, crunch-time possessions. An 85–82 lead, quickly became an 86–85 deficit. A Katin Reinhardt three made it an 87–85 final, a Washington comeback win; a USC collapse.
Plain and simply, if Jacobs lands perfectly fine off that rebound, USC wins this game. He would have provided the Trojans a second ball handler to relieve McLaughlin and a playmaker who makes the offense execute better. But to simply blame this on an injury would be to miss some very important details.
Washington had 22 offensive rebounds in this game, nine coming after USC went up by 22 points. The Trojans struggles on the defensive glass continued. What also continued was poor free-throw shooting and time management.
USC shot 15–25 (60%) from the line and had no timeouts remaining with 6:45 left in the game. So, when the press came again, and there was no Jacobs, McLaughlin literally had no help.
Timeouts must be managed better by Coach Andy Enfield going forward. Timeouts do so many things: allows you to save possessions, coach your guys, make substitutions, give them rest, draw up plays, and switch momentum. Enfield’s mismanagement did not cost them this game though, for there were too many lapses in general.
What we learned today, on the whole, was one major positive and a slight negative. The positive is that USC has the talent when fully healthy to compete in the Pac-12, though it remains to be seen how they’ll handle a top team like Arizona. The negative is that major issues from earlier this season persist: free-throw shooting, defensive rebounding and timeout management.
The Pac-12 looks to be very deep and USC should have plenty of opportunities to steal wins and make up for this collapse. However, Enfield in his staff need to take this Jacobs injury seriously, both to get him back but also to develop a game plan for when their guards are injured or in foul trouble, as Sunday showed USC could not deal with the press of Washington.
Truthfully, most teams in the Pac-12 probably don’t pull out this win. USC caught Washington at a bad time, coming off double overtime heroics, when they weren’t afraid of taking big, clutch shots. That being said, the first 25+ minutes of this half should be the standard going forward.
USC will travel back to Los Angeles now and get ready for another tough game Thursday evening against Arizona State. It’s early, but given that Arizona and UCLA come next, and given the amount of resolve that needs to be shown after a collapse such as this, it might just be a must-win game.