USC loses Porter, game

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By J. Brady McCol­lough

ORE­GON 81, USC 60

EU­GENE, ORE. — This long week­end in Ore­gon was sup­posed to be the mo­ment this year’s USC Tro­jans fi­nally be­came whole.

Kevin Porter Jr. was re­turn­ing to the lineup after a mys­te­ri­ous six-week re­cov­ery from a thigh bruise. His fam­ily made the trip down from Seat­tle to watch Porter, pro­jected as a con­sen­sus NBA lot­tery pick, play his first Pac-12 games. Thurs­day night, Porter played 25 min­utes as the Tro­jans lost a heart­breaker in over­time at Ore­gon State. After the game, Porter ap­peared to be emo­tion­ally wrecked by the de­feat and put the blame on him­self.

If one had wit­nessed Porter then, one never would have been able to see what was com­ing in just a few days. What was in the base­ment hall­way of Gill Coli­seum was a frus­trated 18-year-old kid who re­ally wanted to lead his team to a vic­tory and couldn’t get it done.

But these Pac-12 trips can test a young player’s fo­cus.

“We just sat around Eu­gene for three days now,” USC coach Andy En­field said.

Ap­par­ently, there was plenty of ac­tion, too, none of it much good for the Tro­jans. Porter had an undis­closed con­duct is­sue, and En­field felt he had no choice but to sus­pend the fresh­man.

It was no sur­prise that USC came out flat Sun­day night against Ore­gon, and the Ducks gladly sent the Tro­jans back to Los An­ge­les with an 81-60 whip­ping and an­other grotesque wart on their re­sume.

That was only the be­gin­ning of USC’s prob­lems. After the game, En­field said that Porter’s sus­pen­sion was in­def­i­nite and in­di­cated that there was a chance Porter could have played his last game for the Tro­jans.

“We’ll reeval­u­ate his fu­ture with the pro­gram this week,” En­field said.

“It’s very dis­ap­point­ing. We need all our play­ers to be healthy and avail­able. The last thing you want to do as a head coach is sus­pend any of your play­ers, but when there’s con­duct is­sues, we have no choice.”

USC’s ros­ter is short be­cause En­field sus­pended Jor­dan Usher in­def­i­nitely for an­other undis­closed con­duct is­sue Dec. 31. Usher soon an­nounced he was trans­fer­ring and chose Ge­or­gia Tech as his desti­na­tion.

Charles O’Ban­non Jr. has had a lin­ger­ing fin­ger in­jury all sea­son. Un­til this week, when Porter re­turned to prac­tice for the first time since Nov. 22, it had seemed as if he may never suit up again.

It is al­ways some­thing with these Tro­jans 99-8, 2-2 Pac-12), and, sud­denly, it won’t be Porter’s health that could keep him side­lined for a run of three home games against UCLA, Ari­zona and Ari­zona State that have the po­ten­tial to set the di­rec­tion for what is be­com­ing a lost sea­son in Troy.

Sun­day, fac­ing more un­wanted drama, USC chose not to fight. The Tro­jans could not have played more lazily on both ends of the floor. De­fen­sively, they did not con­sis­tently close out on shoot­ers, al­low­ing the Ducks to make 13 of 24 threes. Of­fen­sively, they had 12 as­sists and 12 turnovers. Ore­gon was play­ing with­out tow­er­ing big man Bol Bol, who is out for the sea­son with a foot in­jury, and still out­re­bounded USC 35-24.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence in USC’s two wins last week­end at Galen Cen­ter and these two losses was the play of ju­nior cen­ter Nick Rako­ce­vic. After av­er­ag­ing 25 points and nine re­bounds and be­ing named Pac-12 player of the week, Rako­ce­vic av­er­aged 8.5 points and five re­bounds. The drop in pro­duc­tion was more a symp­tom of USC’s guards not cre­at­ing ad­van­ta­geous sit­u­a­tions for the big man.

“When we were play­ing against Stan­ford and Cal, I felt col­lec­tively as a team we were all hav­ing fun,” Rako­ce­vic said. “It was en­joy­able play­ing with each other, and know­ing if you passed the ball you’d get it back and you would make some­thing for your­self or for your team­mates. I feel like this trip, I don’t know what hap­pened.”

USC’s re­al­ity is stark. It will not make the NCAA tour­na­ment as an at-large team, so, to ac­com­plish that goal, it will have to im­prove enough the next two months to win the Pac-12 tour­na­ment and make the field the old-fash­ioned way. Now, the Tro­jans might have to at­tempt the task with­out Porter.

Rako­ce­vic was asked Sun­day night if USC feels cursed. “It’s not feel­ing that way yet,” he said, “but if it keeps go­ing that way, it might be. My fresh­man year, we went to the NCAA tour­na­ment and we set the school record for most wins. We were on top of the world.

“Com­ing into my sopho­more year, we were top 10 in the coun­try pre­sea­son, and hav­ing the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ev­ery­thing like that and the luck we had last year and go­ing into this year with the in­juries and all the other stuff we’ve had to worry about, it’s been a tough two years. But this year isn’t over yet.”

Chris Pi­etsch As­so­ci­ated Press

ORE­GON'S LOUIS KING, cen­ter, cel­e­brates a three-point shot against USC in the first half of Sun­day’s Pac-12 game. King had 19 points and nine re­bounds to co-lead the Ducks. Paul White also had 19 points.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.