Despite all the preparation and motivation, it just doesn't go your way no matter how favored you are.
That almost happened to USC against Cal State Bakersfield.
The Trojans overcame a sloppy start to knock off the RoadRunners 63-59 at the end. Byron Wesley had 20 points and Nikola Jovanovic added 14 to lead USC to the victory.
"It was a real ugly game and we just grinded it out," Wesley said. "I learned we can't take any opponent lightly. We need to come out in the first half and play hard."
The first half was not kind to USC. Despite having a size advantage, the Trojans allowed CSUB to grab 12 offensive rebounds to USC's four. The RoadRunners not only had more total rebounds, they shot better from beyond the three-point arc and forced more turnovers than USC did. When the halftime buzzer rang out, the score somehow was tied at 28.
The second half was not much easier. USC had a lead for a brief moment but CSUB controlled the first eight minutes of that half and pushed the score out. The Trojans fought back and tied it again at 46 with 11 minutes left.
The tie didn't last long. CSUB then went on another run to equal its largest lead of the game with at 56-50 with only four minutes left.
It seemed like the Trojans just couldn't take advantage of opportunities. USC came up short on the free throw line at key times. They didn't always take advantage of turnovers by the Roadrunners or grab key rebounds. Andy Enfield knew it could be a rough game after watching practice.
"This was a terrible week for practice and hopefully it will be worth it with some A's and B's on their transcripts," Enfield said of the finals week emphasis. "Our players showed a lot of heart down the stretch when they had to make defensive stops."
Those stops gave the Trojans a way to win.
Much of it had to do with Byron Wesley's second half. Wesley started slow with only one point before intermission -- and finished with 20.
Wesley was the reason USC tied the game again at 58, with only 1:40 left in game. He then grabbed a key rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to give the Trojans a 60-58 lead, their first lead since it was 36-35 much earlier in the second half. USC held on to win, despite giving the Roadrunners a chance to tie at the end of the game.
The Trojans' next game will be at Long Beach State Thursday. Tip off is at 7 p.m. J.T. Terrell may return for that game but it's all depending on getting his grades from the first semester.
Recruits in attendance
Four-star power forward Chimezie Metu from Lawndale (Calif.) High was at the game.
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