Southern Cal: My View

OPINION: Cal State Fullerton lets an 11 point lead midway through the second half slip through their fingers, literally, and USC beats the Titans in overtime, 96-90.

"Life is Pain, son. Pain is life. If you don't like the feel of pain, you might as well be underneath a flower bed."

While I never took to heart my Granddad's favorite quote, his words were painfully (pun intended) obvious while watching Pape Sow play last night in a tough loss to Southern Cal, 96-90 in overtime.

The word in the stands was that Pape Sow was bothered by a hyper-extended knee suffered in Monday's practice. If true that would help explain away his worst game of the year in the biggest game of the year for the Titans. He looked a step slow but he still needs to come up big in this game and he didn't.

Injury or no injury, 9 points, 0 rebounds and 5 fouls in 21 minutes against USC, simply stated, just doesn't cut it. We need Pape Sow to show up for the big games, the games which could put us over the hump. Last night was a disappointment but most of the Titans showed they are gamers and this team's best days are ahead of them.

Here are the other top reason the Titans lost to the heavily favored Trojans:

Small Play by Big Men
As already noted, Pape had a miserable game, but his cousin fared no better. Babacar's lack of playing time this year showed when he had to play 21 minutes because of Sow's foul trouble. While the effort was definitely there, too much of the old Babacar showed through last night. Numerous dropped passes, missed rebounds and missed block-out assignments on the defensive end helped USC win this game.

In addition, SC's big man Jeff McMillan had a monster game, dominating the inside. He had 22 points and 8 boards. The bottom line is, if Pape shows up at all last night, we beat our first Pac-10 opponent since 1986.

Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers
21 in all and many were unforced. SC had a total of 10. As Burton said after the game, they needed to attack the press more. Burton was probably a little too hard on himself as this press should not have caused 21 turnovers.

Bobby Brown was credited with five of them but if our players didn't have "ping-pong paddles for hands" as one supporter said, he is down to two, easily.

The really sad part about this loss is how well we shot and how just about everyone came to play. LB was again the guy who scored crucial baskets when we needed them and likely had his best game of the year. While he scored 27 points, this barely scratches the surface of what he means to this team.

Anthony Bolton had his best offensive performance and Brian Pruitt hit a couple three's when we needed them most. Yaphett King and David Warsaw off the bench also had some big plays. Derick Andrew, while he struggled some in his handling of the ball, still played excellent defense and hit more than a few nice-looking jumpers.

I don't know if we are going to be able to hit 14 threes again, but it sure was a good feeling knowing they are capable of having a good shooting performance ... especially away from home.

When you out-play, out-coach and out-hustle your opponent but fail to out-win, it's a big letdown. If this team can come back on Saturday against Eastern Washington and play nearly as well on the offensive end, without all the turnovers, and if Pape simply has an okay game, the Titans should get back on track. Huge Barometer game.