That’s the way the ball bounces sometimes. One point. Three crucial plays, and the USC men’s basketball would be playing in the round of 32. Instead, the Trojans find themselves bounced out of the NCAA Tournament, done in by the inability to close the deal during their first round NCAA Tournament game against Providence by two one-plus-one free throw attempts and the failure to snatch a loose ball going out of bounds.
Then we have the blown defensive assignment at the end that ultimately cost the Trojans’ advancement to the next game. Losing is a tough. Going down in defeat the way the Trojans did is a bitter pill for the USC faithful to swallow, let alone the young men who played all game long like they rightfully belonged in the tournament.
Beating a solid Providence team is no small feat. It was going to take a great effort on the part of the Trojans to take down the Friars in the East Regional contest. Up until the last two minutes of the game, USC, which came into the contest as the No.8 seed, had done that.
The Trojans had the Friars right where they wanted to, but let them off the hook with a sequence of plays that can best be summed up in two words: March Madness. It sounds cheesy, even a little bit cliche’, but what happened to USC towards the end of the game, pretty much defines what March Madness is all about.
The insanity of having victory snatched away right into the hands of defeat in a matter of moments is what the tournament is known for. Unfortunately, the Trojans and their coach, Andy Enfield, received their dose of this reality in the most angst, heartbreaking way. USC played 38 minutes of inspired basketball, only to see the last two minutes of the game define the outcome.
Thus, the meaning behind the worn out mantra that “the game isn’t over until it’s over” can very easily be applied in the Trojans’ 70-69 defeat. The tournament moves on-with or without the Trojans. But it was a pretty good year for the USC men’s basketball program overall. Though the Trojans finished sixth in the Pac-12 Conference (and was one of seven conference teams to make the tournament), USC recorded a winning 21-13 overall mark during the regular season.
The Trojans can also take comfort in the fact that they beat crosstown rival UCLA three times and emerged as a legitimate threat for years to come to become a top-tier team in the Pac-12 Conference. And they only lost two games at home this season. But down the stretch, much like the ending against Providence, the Trojans faltered, losing seven of their last 10 games (including the defeat to the Friars).
It was a tough way to go out. But at least the Trojans went down fighting and clawing down to the last second. Lack of effort was not what cost USC in this game. It was merely execution of the right moves at the Big Dance. Hopefully, this rocky moment will turn into something positive for the next season.
But right now, there’s nothing smooth and cool about having your hearts ripped out the way the Trojans did.