That was one of those two-half games.
USC thoroughly dominated Washington State in the first half, out-shooting, out-rebounding and out-assisting the Cougars to the tune of a 34-24 lead at the break. But the second half was different.
The Cougars outscored the Trojans 43-26 in the final 20 minutes, getting 21 points from Reggie Moore and 20 from Klay Thompson to beat the Trojans, 67-60, at the Galen Center on Saturday.
"That was pretty bad, especially defensively," USC forward Alex Stepheson said. "We just couldn't stop anybody. It was embarrassing."
The Trojans got 16 points from Marcus Johnson and 13 from Dwight Lewis, but ultimately the USC defense just didn't perform up to its usual standard.
“We don’t have good scoring; we don’t have a lot of things,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “But we do have good defense, and they kind of let us down tonight."
"It's disappointing for us, because that's what we hang our hat on," said USC point guard Mike Gerrity.
The Cougars bench did end up outscoring USC's, just as O'Neill predicted. WSU's Nikola Koprivica scored 13 points — all in the second half — and the Cougar reserves had 16 points in 29 minutes. The Trojan reserves played 38 minutes but scored only nine points.
Key players: Moore stole the show away from Thompson, the Pac-10's leading scorer with an average of 22.9 points per game. Moore had six assists to go along with his 21 points.
"The kid that really killed us was Moore," O'Neill said. "He took us apart."
Gerrity, called on to defend Moore for most of the night, said the Cougars' pick-and-rolls and dribble-drives were at least partly the cause of the Trojans' demise.
"He was getting a little bit of room and he was able to make some plays, make some baskets, make some assists," Gerrity said. "It was a tough guard tonight."
O'Neill said the Trojans prepared equally as much for both Thompson and Moore.
"I haven't seen a better point guard in the conference than Moore," O'Neill said.
Key plays: An odd sequence with 1:30 to go put the game out of reach for the Trojans. With the Cougars leading 60-58, Lewis forced a steal on the defensive end but had the ball taken from him when pushing the ball the opposite way on a fast break attempt.
Washington State's Marcus Capers then made a lay-up as the crowd booed, and on the next possession, Mike Gerrity was fouled on a drive to the basket. The crowd — and the USC bench — wanted an and-one when the ball went in, but the call was two shots.
Gerrity missed both, and the Thompson just about iced it with a smooth jumper on the next possession.
Key development: Examining the second half a bit further, it seems this Trojan team is growing averse to adversity.
Since the self-imposed sanctions were announced in early January, the USC team has consistently faded in close games.
Take tonight, for example.
"When things got tough defensively in the second half, we just broke down," O'Neill said. "When we gave them a little crack of daylight, they came through."
Now, some players offered excuses, like Stepheson, who said Moore was "just making everything" late in the game, but this hasn't been a one-time thing for the Trojans
It happened against Stanford. It happened against Cal. And it happened against Washington State.
If it happens again, USC might be in trouble.