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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Los Angeles Times - Trojans miss shots, and another big chance

NO. 2 MEMPHIS 62, NO. 24 USC 58
Trojans miss shots, and another big chance

They shoot only 28.8% in 62-58 overtime loss to No. 2 Memphis, their second straight four-point defeat against a top-five opponent.

By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 5, 2007

NEW YORK -- Sitting with his jersey crumpled in his lap and his back against a white cinderblock wall in a corner of the locker room, Daniel Hackett couldn't keep the tears from rolling down his cheeks late Tuesday night.

The USC sophomore guard was hardly culpable on a night the No. 24-ranked Trojans extended No. 2 Memphis to overtime before falling, 62-58, after a fatigue-plagued final five minutes in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The Trojans committed a pair of turnovers and made only one of seven shots in overtime, but Hackett took his team's second consecutive four-point loss to a top-five team particularly hard. He had stepped to the free-throw line with 5.9 seconds left remaining in regulation and USC trailing, 54-53.

Hackett, shooting 81.5% from the line, made the first attempt to tie the score. The second bounced off the back of the rim, and after Memphis forward Robert Dozier couldn't convert a last-second three-pointer, the game went into the extra session.

"We just fought," Hackett said, choking up. "We went out there and played our hardest."

USC (6-3) had several more chances in overtime.

Trailing by two points with 1:30 left, Trojans freshman guard O.J. Mayo attempted an alley-oop lob for freshman forward Davon Jefferson, but the pass sailed high off the backboard and Memphis corralled the carom.

"I didn't want the defender to grab it and just threw it a little too hard and too high," Mayo said.

Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts then followed two of his own misses with a putback that gave the Tigers a 58-54 lead.

A pair of free throws by freshman guard Angelo Johnson brought the Trojans back to within two points, but Memphis guard Antonio Anderson countered with a driving layup, Mayo missed a pull-up jumper in the lane and the Tigers (7-0) made enough free throws in the final 23 seconds to secure the victory.

As much as the loss hurts now, it may serve a larger purpose when Pacific 10 Conference play starts next month.

"We shot 28% and went to overtime with the No. 2 team in the country, which means that we were doing a lot of things well," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "My team has come a long way."

Though they made only 19 of 66 field-goal attempts (28.8%), the Trojans also played with poise for most of the game against a suffocating Memphis full-court press.

They also ran an effective triangle-and-two defense that Floyd installed about two hours before tip-off in a hotel ballroom.

The Tigers shot only 37.3% and Douglas-Roberts was held to 10 points, well below his 21.8 average.

Jefferson logged his first career double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Mayo scored 16 points, though he made only six of 20 shots and has made only 12 of 41 (29.3%) in USC's last two games.

Trojans sophomore forward Taj Gibson, a Brooklyn native playing for the first time at Madison Square Garden, did not have a particularly memorable homecoming. He fouled out of his third consecutive game and finished with five points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. At least half of his 12 shots were blocked by Memphis' imposing front line.

The crowd included Lakers owner and USC alumnus Jerry Buss seated along one baseline and Mayo's mother, Alisha, seated several rows behind the Trojans bench wielding a sign that read, "Got juice? Failure is NOT an option!"

Jefferson factored prominently in the final frantic minute of regulation, driving hard to the basket and drawing a foul. He made both free throws to pull USC to within 54-53 with 17 seconds left.

Johnson eventually fouled Douglas-Roberts with 8.1 seconds left, sending him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. The first attempt was short and Hackett grabbed the rebound before getting fouled by Douglas-Roberts.

"I was just trying to get to the other basket as quick as possible," Hackett said, "and Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped in my way and reached on my arm and I just went down."

Hackett stepped to the line having made all three of his free-throw attempts in the game.

"The second one went long," he said. "It hit the back of the rim. I'm really disappointed."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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