USC Loses to New Mexico, 44-41

USC started its four-game home stand with a loss to the Lobos. Trojans' star guard Maurice Jones led the team with 19 points, 5 rebounds and an assist.

LOS ANGELES -- Coming off a road loss to Minnesota, the USC men's basketball team hoped to ignite their four-game home stand Saturday with a win over the University of New Mexico.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, the heat emanated more on the visitors' end as the Lobos came into the Galen Center and beat the men of Troy 44-41.

Despite both teams shooting 33.3 percent, New Mexico led for nearly the game's duration. Silly fouls by the Trojans and good pressure from the Lobos led the Trojans to accumulate a 13-point deficit late in the first half.

But USC showed the same resiliency it had early in the season, in its nailbiter losses to both Nebraska and San Diego State, where the Trojans lost by a final basket.

"We kept playing and we kept playing. We had opportunities," USC head coach Kevin O'Neill said.

Opportunities such as star guard Maurice Jones' back-to-back baskets late in the first half gave the Trojans enough momentum to stay competitive in the second.

If the men of Troy had been without Jones, however, this game could-- and would not --have been close.

Jones led the Trojans in scoring with 19 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. In the first half, only three other Trojans scored--and all did just once.

But then the offense picked up in the second half, as well as the defense. USC closed the gap and even led at one point.

"Our defense is way ahead of where I thought we'd be," O'Neill said. "I'm happy with a lot of what we're doing. We're just not able to get wins."

"We got to figure out a way to get everybody to that second-half mentality [but] in the first half," USC forward DeWayne Dedmon said.

A crucial block from Dedmon after a steal by USC's Aaron Fuller kept the Trojans close. And then Dedmon knocked in a just-good jumper, coupled with a huge three from Jones to get the crowd of nearly 3,500 on its feet.

"You have to play through it. Like even if you're down you have to just stick with it on defense and your offense will come," Dedmon said.

Still, USC's offense didn't come soon enough. A poor foul by Dedmon in the game's final minute allowed Lobos forward A.J. Hardemann to seal the visitor's win.

"We're frustrated. We're tired of losing. We've got to fix it," Jones said.

The Trojans have just six days to fix those mistakes before their next contest at home on Dec. 17 against Georgia. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

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