USC loses 5th in row, 71-57 to No. 14 Minnesota
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Southern California capped a tough early stretch of the season with its fifth consecutive loss.
The Trojans never led in losing 71-57 to No. 14 Minnesota on Saturday night, struggling from the start and then playing better in the second half only to come up short again.
It was their fifth loss to a ranked team, including two this week.
''We're not quite ready for that right now,'' coach Kevin O'Neill said.
However, he said some good has come out of the losses, with O'Neill figuring out who should be playing and who should not. He promised to make changes to the starting lineup next week, going with players showing the highest energy.
The Gophers began the game on a 9-0 run, leaving USC to play catch-up the rest of the way.
''We had another six or seven minutes, this time at the start of the game, where guys played with low energy and that got us in a hole,'' O'Neill said. ''It's tough to come back from that. It's no consolation to lose to five ranked teams. We've got to find a way to win those.''
Reserve Omar Oraby scored all of his 15 points in the second half to lead USC (3-6).
''I've been struggling the last couple games so I tried not to think about what's going on,'' he said. ''We've played a lot of good teams. It's bad to be losing but we can't get down on ourselves because we're playing against some good teams. We have to come out with energy.''
Byron Wesley added 13 points and Jio Fontan had nine. Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 10 rebounds. The Trojans have lost six of seven.
Andre Hollins scored 14 points for the Gophers, who gave coach Tubby Smith his 500th career victory, the 19th active Division I coach to reach that mark.
Rodney Williams added 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Trevor Mbakwe had 12 points for the Gophers (10-1), who led all the way in winning their sixth in a row on their first trip to play USC in Los Angeles since Dec. 29, 1980.
USC cut its deficit to single digits for the first time in the second half on a basket by Oraby with 5:41 remaining. He struggled at the line, making just 1 of 5 free throws. That was the closest the Trojans came as Hollins scored six of the Gophers' final 10 points.
''The point guard Fontan got by us, got by me, got into the lane and starting creating and that was the big game changer,'' Hollins said.
USC committed 17 turnovers, went 1 of 11 from 3-point range and got beat on the boards 40-32. The Gophers had 10 steals, although they had 15 miscues.
The Gophers raced to a 23-10 lead, including the game's first nine points, before the slow-starting Trojans played them nearly evenly the rest of the first half. Fontan made 5 of 6 free throws as USC closed the half by outscoring the Gophers 16-15 to trail 38-26.