Home » The Pac-12 tournament is a Jekyll-and-Hyde USC men’s basketball team’s last hope

The Pac-12 tournament is a Jekyll-and-Hyde USC men’s basketball team’s last hope

LOS ANGELES – On the one hand, they fight. This can’t be overstated.

Inside the most hostile of environments Wednesday night at Cal’s Haas Pavilion, a packed-out gym jeering like a cage match and booing Bronny James every single time he touched the ball, this USC team somehow managed to string together enough stops and Isaiah Collier drives to flip a 15-point lead to an overtime battle. They rarely quit on games, and players and coaches have stuck around long after the close of practices for pow-wows to try to figure out what’s gone wrong; for bickering over playing time and Boogie Ellis’ comments that this team needed to “have some more pride,” they have still battled through the nightmare.

On the other hand, they are fatally raw. This can’t be understated. There was a stretch, in that second-half comeback against Cal, where Bronny James missed two free throws, USC got a stop, then Kobe Johnson missed quite literally a point-blank uncontested layup, then USC got another stop, and then Johnson missed two free throws. They continue to be dominated on the glass; James, at a generous 6-foot-4, led the Trojans with five rebounds. They continue to leave points at the line; they shoot 70% as a group.

“It’s frustrating,” Enfield said postgame, when asked about the inconsistency of a group that competes is its own worst enemy at times.

“When you say, how do you fight through it, or how do you prepare – our guys, their attitudes have been great,” Enfield said, later, to another question. “I mean, they wanted to win this game. They fought. In the locker room afterwards, they were very upset that we lost the game, and I think they’re going to come out Saturday and play as hard as they can.”

There is desperately little time – eight games, starting with Stanford Saturday, and a Pac-12 tournament – to make something of this Jekyll-and-Hyde group. And that trip to Vegas, in March, is the absolute last chance this USC team has to make the NCAA tournament, an expected goal before the start of the season. When asked after the loss to Cal, Collier said he still felt the group could win the conference tournament in Vegas in March, because what else could he say, really?

Except he actually seemed to mean it.

“I feel like this game is a huge lesson for us,” Collier said.