Fatigued Trojans Fall, 67-59

The USC Trojans controlled the action for most of the first half of play Saturday night at the Galen Center, and looked poised to capture their second straight victory, before running out of gas and dropping their first game of the season to Loyola Marymount, 67-59.

The USC Trojans controlled the action for most of the first half of play Saturday night at the Galen Center, and looked poised to capture their second straight victory, before running out of gas and dropping their first game of the season to Loyola Marymount, 67-59.

LMU jumped out to a 16-8 lead early but the Trojans' offense quickly rebounded behind the play of guards Marcus Simmons and Donte Smith, who finished the night with 11 and 10 points respectively.

Simmons and Smith have looked like completely different players on the offensive end of the floor, making shots from the perimeter, and playing with a lot of confidence so far this season.

The Trojans turned an early 8-point deficit into an 8-point halftime lead by going on a 25-9 run to end the half.

The second half didn't go quite as smooth for the Men of Troy as they watched a 10-point lead slip away after forward Kasey Cunningham limped off the court with just over 14 minutes to play.

Cunningham landed awkwardly, fell to the floor and immediately grabbed his left knee before limping off the court.

The 6-foot-7 forward, who has already had three knee surgeries in his career, sprained his left knee and will have an MRI on Monday.

"It didn't feel like past ACL tears," Cunningham said. "Good thing I had my brace on."

The loss of Cunningham appeared to be the turning point of the game as the already thin Trojans were without Cunningham's inside presence for the rest of the game and were unable to hold on to their double-digit lead.

6-foot-10 sophomore Nikola Vucevic contributed a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds in Cunningham's absence but didn't get much help in the paint.

"I think our guys played hard, we basically played with five guys, six guys really, but five after Casey went down," O'Neill said.

LMU guard Larry Davis gave the Lions a 51-50 lead with just over 8 minutes to play and USC was never able to recapture the lead from that point.

"They were down double figures but they kept playing hard, we gave them some life and they took advantage of it," O'Neill said.

Davis and teammate Jarred DuBois came up big for Loyola in the clutch and controlled the game in the closing minutes.

DuBois made 4-of-5 three point attempts and scored a team-high 17 points in the victory, while Davis scored all of his 9 points in the second half.

USC tied the game on a Dwight Lewis jumper with just over 3 minutes to play at 58-58, but that was as close the Trojans would get.

Lewis, who is the Trojan's top returning scorer, struggled all night and connected on just 3-of-12 shot attempts.

With just six players getting playing time, four of which played over 35 minutes, the Trojans just didn't have the manpower to close out the game and eventually fell victim to fatigue, losing 67-59.

"We played some guys some huge number of minutes," O'Neill said. "Your level of accountability goes down in terms of making mistakes and being aware when you get tired. Our guys aren't used to carrying that kind of load.

"I am disappointed that we lost but I am very proud of the effort that our guys gave throughout this game."

The Trojans will get some much needed support with the return of guard Marcus Johnson when they face Coppin State Friday night at the Galen Center.


Nikola Vucevic had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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