Running Game Diary: USC vs. Washington State

TrojanWire’s Ben Weiss is back with another Running Game Diary (brought to you by BetPhoenix) — this time surviving the past week’s defensive battle between the Cougs of WSU and our beloved Trojans.


***

You know it’s bad when the Trojans are halfway through their Pac-10 schedule, and you’re already looking toward next year. Okay, maybe that’s a little pessimistic, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that this team is going to make the tournament. Right now the Men of Troy have only one convincing win in their favor (the home victory against #16/17 Arizona State) in contrast to two losses to vastly sub-par squads (Seton Hall, Oregon State) and three close losses to teams that will probably make the final field of 65 (Oklahoma by one, UCLA by four and Mizzou – a game in which they led by ten with 15 minutes left in the second half – by 11).

I hate using the “must-win game” label unless a loss in the game would result in the team being knocked from postseason contention. So I won’t use it. But getting swept in Washington and falling to 12-7 would definitely help the Trojans make their case for a spot in the NIT. And I HATE the NIT.

3:01 – Gettin’ ready to tip off and our Fox Sports commentators announce that Dwight Lewis, the Trojans’ leading scorer so far this year, will be out again with an ankle sprain. After Daniel Hackett’s 24 against Washington on Thursday, I’m not too worried about that announcement. I’ve always though Hackett’s had a solid jump shot, but he doesn’t use it enough. We’ll see if he put it to good use today.

3:05 – The Cougars’ coach is Tony Bennett? I hope he’s the halftime entertainment as well!

3:07 – Nikola Vucevic gets the start at the small forward position in place of Lewis.

3:09 – Aaron Baines scores the first four points for Wazzu. I’ll just call him Goon.

3:10 – WOW. Gibson hits Vucevic slashing down the lane as he slams home a Josh Smith-like left handed dunk to tie the game at six. Get up, white boy, get up! One of the announcers quotes Shaq by saying “all of the chich’s can shoot.” That’s true, but Nikola’s last name ends in VIC, not CIC. Plus, that was a dunk, not a jump shot.

3:15 – We’re tied at eight with just under 14 minutes at the first media timeout. Both teams have started off shooting the ball well. Congrats to the Cougars, as they’ve scored more points today than they did earlier this year in football. I know, that’s not saying much.

3:18 – Marcus Johnson is a lockdown defender who “gets his hands on a lot of balls,” says one announcer. I bet he gets along great with Leonard Washington! Sorry, L-Dub, I had to. That nut-tap on Blake Griffin earlier this year was just too funny.

3:21 – Johnson picks up a totally BS foul, as he’s called for charging. I guess this ref has been promoted from working high school games.

3:28 – Scoring has slowed to a 405-highway-during-rush-hour pace. With just over 7 minutes left it’s 12-10 SC following a nice offensive tip-in by Vucevic.

3:30 – How much does Five Hour Energy regret using Braylon Edwards as one of its spokespersons? I guess it could be worse….he could be the spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson’s “Never Drop You Baby” infant carrier.

3:35 – Vucevic again doing some dirty work on the offensive glass with yet another tip-in! Floyd’s looking like a genius by getting him in the lineup. In fact, with Taj Gibson and Hackett shooting a combined one for nine from the floor, Vucevic’s six points have kept SC close as they face a two-point deficit as we hit the four-minute media timeout, 17-15 Wazzu.

3:42 – Hackett takes and hits SC’s first three-pointer of the game with three minutes left in the half. Ya think they’re missing the deep threat of Lewis? Yeah, just a little.

3:48 – Gibson banks a shot in, trying to beat the first half buzzer, but it left his grasp a millisecond too late and is called back. Apparently a foul was called on the play, but Taj won’t get to shoot free throws…Wasn’t the foul called before the shot? More curious refereeing in Pullman… 19-18 at the half.

3:52 – Halftime stats platter: the Trojans have held Wazzu to six of 24 shooting and only one of six from three-point territory. USC is three of eight from the charity stripe and Vucevic has a team-high six points. One of the halftime commentators mentions that this is a typical Wazzu home game, referring to the low score. Someone please explain to the Cougars that in sports, with the exception of golf, you have to score points to win games.

4:01 – Professional NASCAR driver Steve Wallace gives his testament to the effectiveness of Five Hour Energy, saying how he bought four or five and stayed up ‘til 4 a.m. fishing with his buds. Sounds more like you might be drinking Powerthirst, buddy.

4:07 – After Wazzu starts the half with five straight points, USC’s Eastern European savior comes to the rescue with his third offensive rebound and put-back. He’s carving out the area underneath the basket like a crazy doctor from “Hostel.”

4:13 – 27-21 Cougars with 15:10 left in the game. Kill me now.

4:20 – Baynes a.k.a. Goon a.k.a. poor man’s Luke Harangody hits a baseline jumper extending Wazzu’s lead to 31-23. If only Alex Stepheson were here to body-up against this kid and show him some real big-man play.

4:26 – If the football team can bring in Denver’s O-Coordinator, can the basketball team bring in Shaq to teach them how to shoot free-throws? Nine of sixteen from the stripe has proved to be the difference with a score of 33-28.

4:29 – The Trojans have managed 28 points as we hit a media timeout with 7:25 left. That’s 10 points this half. Six free-throws and two field goals. SC’s anorexic scoring is making Kate Moss look like Rosie O’Donnell.

4:36 – Taj Gibson, with some free throws and a raucous two-handed put-back slam, has single-handedly cut the lead to 38-35. Hey, I think we just might reach the 40-point plateau!

4:43 – Marcus Johnson ties the game at 38 after a three-point play the hard way, but Wazzu comes right back with a three pointer of their own. Adding injury to insult, Gibson gets absolutely molested on a shot underneath and goes down hurt, but stays in the game. All three of the Cougars who were guarding Gibson can now be found on the online sex offender database.

4:48 – The Trojans finally arrive at 40 points, down 41-40 and after a weak baseline bounce pass by Rochestie is stolen by Johnson, he spins into the lane on the other end, puts up a floater and GOOOOOOON is called for a goaltend. 42-41 Trrrrrojans! (God, why am I even excited about this? The USC football team scored more points against Wazzu than the basketball team has).

4:51 – A missed shot and a turnover on back-to-back Wazzu possessions lead to two free-throws by Hackett and two missed free-throws by DeRozan, the latter leading to the ball being knocked out of bounds and going to SC.

4:56 – More free-throws push the lead to 46-41. Rochestie hits a deep three at the buzzer to make it 46-44, but alas, Wazzu still has not learned to golden rule of sports: you have to score points to win. The Trojans pull away with a W, again, without the help of leading scorer Dwight Lewis and despite not having a second-half lead until 52 seconds remained in the contest.

5:02 – I’m going to go immerse myself in some And-1 Mixtape Tour basketball to try and counteract this defensive, low-scoring torture. Fight On, baby!

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Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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