USC basketball team stuck in another February slide

By in Press Enterprise on February 15, 2018

By Joey Kaufman

LOS ANGELES — February has marked a significant roadblock for USC’s basketball team in recent years.

Last season, the Trojans dropped four consecutive games over the month’s final weeks. Currently, they have lost three straight in its early weeks.

A tailspin was ultimately averted last season. The Trojans bounced back, won their final two regular-season games, then beat Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament and received an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

USC is again in need of embarking on a similarly strong finish to make the 68-team field for a third consecutive season, beginning with its next conference game Thursday against Oregon.

“We kind of feel the pressure,” guard Elijah Stewart said. “We kind of need to pick up these games.”

Both of the rough stretches have coincided with the most difficult part of the Trojans’ schedule, matchups against the Pac-12’s top teams that caused them to dip in the conference standings and toward the edge of the tournament bubble. The recent three-game slide includes losses to Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. When they lost four in a row in 2017, it was at the hands of Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and Oregon and left them short on quality wins.

Players and coaches, though, expressed mostly optimism this week.

“We’re tied for second in the Pac-12 right now,” Coach Andy Enfield said. “It could be a lot worse.”

Entering the final three weeks of the regular season, the Trojans (17-9, 8-5 in conference) are in a tie with UCLA for second place, but with little separation. There were eight teams with five or six losses going into this week’s games, a logjam in the middle of the standings that has added uncertainly to which Pac-12 teams might land on the right side of the bubble.

Despite USC’s three-game skid over the past two weeks, Enfield contended, “our guys […]    

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