March Madness: USC loses to Michigan State in NCAA event

A season spent climbing again from the brink, scratching and clawing its means from one week to the following, had given USC each purpose to imagine it may circumvent no matter setbacks would possibly nonetheless stand in its means. So usually had it survived sluggish begins or extended slumps that comebacks had come to look like second nature for the Trojans, whose coach had just lately referred to as them his most improved in a decade.

But there have been no footholds to be discovered Friday, or any emergency plans to place into movement. Months spent tempting destiny lastly foiled USC, which fell within the first spherical of the NCAA event to Michigan State, 72-62.

For the second consecutive season, the solutions to what ailed the Trojans eluded them on the worst attainable time, with their NCAA event lives on the road.

“It’s just how the ball rolls sometimes in March,” senior guard Drew Peterson mentioned.

This loss wasn’t a matter of some dangerous bounces, although. It was a summation of all of USC’s worst tendencies this season, neatly packaged right into a devastating defeat.

The Trojans as soon as once more began sluggish, digging themselves an 11-point gap early. Then, after ending the primary half on a tear, they settled for too many dangerous photographs and sloppy possessions within the second, capturing 11 of 32 after the half. They gave the ball away 11 occasions, too, handing Michigan State 16 further factors off turnovers.

Michigan State guard Tyson Walker flexes in entrance of USC’s Tre White throughout an NCAA event recreation March 17 in Columbus, Ohio.

(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

It was an all-too-familiar stretch for USC. Yet coach Andy Enfield didn’t appear to suppose it warranted any offseason soul-searching about his offensive philosophy.

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“It’s hard to not make timely shots and turn the ball over,” Enfield mentioned. “It was our guys losing the ball. The scoring droughts are usually either you miss open shots or guys try to do too much on their own, one-on-one, instead of just moving the ball and spacing and cutting. I know there’s a lot of pressure on these guys. The second half we got down. It is frustrating at times throughout the season. But for the most part our guys played the right way.”

It didn’t assist that its main scorer hit a wall when he was wanted most. Boogie Ellis had been the engine of the Trojans’ offense for the final two months, averaging higher than 22 factors over his final dozen video games.

His late-season breakout provided hope that USC would possibly catch hearth down the stretch, however it will take 17 minutes earlier than USC’s senior level guard scored Friday.

With Michigan State targeted on shutting down Ellis and clogging the passing lanes, he by no means discovered his footing. Ellis completed with simply six factors, whereas capturing 3 of 12 from the sector, a letdown efficiency eerily paying homage to final March, when he struggled and was benched in USC’s first-round loss to Miami.

It was hardly the best way Ellis or Peterson, who scored 11, hoped to shut out their tenures as Trojans.

“I let my teammates down today,” Ellis mentioned. “I played too fast today. I didn’t change my pace all year. I play with a great pace. But today I played a little bit too fast. So that’s on me.”

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He wasn’t the one one who had hassle adjusting. After per week of making ready for Michigan State to fireplace away from the three-point arc, USC was confounded when the Spartans spent most of their time attacking the paint.

Few groups had defended the inside higher this season than USC, however because the Trojans targeted on guarding Spartans on the arc, Michigan State had little hassle working it inside the place it scored 32 factors, among the many most any crew has managed in opposition to USC this season.

“Points in the paint were significant,” Enfield mentioned.

USC discovered some offense of its personal on the inside as Joshua Morgan unexpectedly stepped right into a scoring function within the first half. Morgan scored eight straight on 4 consecutive possessions, leaving the massive man exhausted, barely in a position to stand throughout the ensuing timeout.

The burst from Morgan stored USC afloat for some time, however the Trojans by no means discovered the identical vitality once more. As Michigan State got here out of the half sizzling, making seven of 11 from the sector, USC once more fell right into a droop. During a four-minute scoreless stretch later within the half, the Trojans turned the ball over 3 times in three minutes, the final of which led to a breakaway Spartan bucket.

With a 15-point Michigan State lead intact, the ocean of inexperienced and white that had taken over Nationwide Arena roared in unison.

Any hope of a comeback was quickly swallowed by the Spartans and their raucous devoted. Still, Kobe Johnson tried his greatest to whip one up, flattening consecutive three-pointers late to chop the result in 9. Michigan State responded by lacking three straight front-ends of one-and-one free throws, giving the Trojans a sliver of hope with two minutes remaining.

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Yet the comebacks that USC had conjured all season had, by that time, been exhausted. The Trojans missed their subsequent 4 photographs, lastly achieved in by the obstacles they’d so usually overcome this season.