UCLA's Tony Parker, left, and USC's Nikola Jovanovic keep their eye on a loose ball at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. UCLA won, 85-74. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LAS VEGAS — When the USC men's basketball team traveled to Tempe in late February, the team was reeling from a 30-point loss and the suspension of three players, but the Trojans were able to control most of the game and held a lead late.
Rallying behind the exquisite play of sophomore guard Kahlil Dukes, who scored 18 points off the bench, the Trojans (11-19, 3-15 Pac-12) held a six-point lead with around five minutes remaining.
Then, Dukes started missing shots and the USC defense allowed a 14-3 run to ASU over the last five minutes of the game to send the Trojans back to Los Angeles with a heart-wrenching loss.
One aspect of the game that USC coach Andy Enfield believes his team can improve on is rebounding, specifically on the defensive end, since that ended up being USC's downfall.
"We didn't rebound the ball particularly well," Enfield said. "They did a great job rebounding the ball and, in fact, they got an offensive rebound with a minute left in a tie game and that was the deciding three when they kicked it back out and worked the ball around."
The Trojans finished ninth in the Pac-12 this season in defensive rebounds, averaging 23.6 per game.
Sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt, who averaged 12.4 points per game this season, was suspended for the game for "violating team rules." Enfield said he hopes Reinhardt has a good game and can help the Trojans.
"We hope that he plays well," Enfield said. "Hopefully Katin will come out well tomorrow, as well as the other guys, and give us offense off the bench and be competitive."
This season, USC lost every conference game played away from its home floor and was only competitive in a handful of those losses. But Enfield isn't thinking about the regular season though, saying that tournament time is a new season and his guys have to make the most of that opportunity.
"I think any postseason tournament you have to go compete, try to win some games," Enfield said. "It's a new season for everybody, so it's an exciting time. This is what you play basketball for – you go the postseason have a chance."
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