first_imgThe USC Trojans men’s basketball team came very close to turning the corner last Thursday night in their game against the Colorado Buffaloes. A thriller that ended after three overtimes and in bitter fashion, the showdown between the Trojans and the Buffs was USC’s most resilient effort under  second-year coach Andy Enfield.The Trojans came out strong in the first half, building an early double-digit lead behind a strong shooting performance from redshirt sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt and some nifty post moves from second-year big man Nikola Jovanovic. Colorado was able to whittle down the deficit to one point to end to the half and carried that momentum straight into the second period, going on a run right away.As Colorado took the lead and the Trojans struggled to keep pace, any USC basketball fan who has watched the program over the last 10 years could recognize what was happening. Regardless of the coach and the players, USC is somehow plagued almost every game by four-minute to                   six-minute dry spells, during which they struggle to put the ball in the basket. While most college basketball fans can attribute this phenomenon to their team as well, the Trojans seem to be especially adept at going into these funks at the worst possible times.This is a hallmark of every USC team, both good and bad. The only difference with the more successful Trojan squads is their ability to fight their way back into the game after scoring droughts. The best example of this is the Trojans’ 2009 Pac-10 tournament clinching victory over a nationally ranked, James Harden-led Arizona State basketball team. USC came out and was down 15 at halftime, going through multiple periods of immense struggle to buy a basket.Yet they somehow clawed their way back and won a   tightly-contested game. That was one of the two or three best USC basketball teams in the last 10 years, and their resilience was a key factor in their success. As the team has struggled in more recent years, that characteristic has been conspicuously absent.This year, there have been signs. A valiant comeback effort against Stanford and locking up the Oregon State Beavers in the second half were two games in the which the young Trojan team showed some mettle. The team’s biggest test came with eight minutes left in Thursday night’s battle. The Trojans had just gone more than four minutes without scoring and were down 61-50.With little at stake in terms of conference standings or tournament implications, USC could have easily folded. Instead, the Trojans brought up the intensity and played their best eight minutes of basketball this season. On defense, they forced Colorado to take bad shots late in the shot clock, got into passing lanes and deflected balls and played with a true vigor for the game. On offense, they found the hot-handed Reinhardt, who finished the game with a record-tying nine single-game 3-pointers and got the ball down low to Jovanovic who was highly effective with his post moves.With less than a minute left, the Trojans executed their best out of timeout call this year. Feeding the ball to the high post to then dump it down to Jovanovic for a beautiful            left-handed finish tied up the game and marked the end of an eight-minute 16-5 run for USC.While the Trojans would ultimately fall in the third overtime, the fight and grit that USC showed demonstrates marked improvement in the team. The team wasn’t helped out by suspect officiating or Colorado guard Askia Booker’s career night, but they still found a way to battle back after every bad call.Unless you can keep pace with Kentucky’s recruiting prowess, developing fundamentally sound and mentally tough four-year players is the best way to succeed in the current climate of college basketball. Virginia is just the latest test case to demonstrate the validity of the model. The Trojans are young and have some pieces to make some noise in a year or two if they can continue to showcase resilience and grit.Obviously, winning only one game in conference play isn’t the mark of a powerhouse, but it’s important to look at the positive aspects. Thursday’s game foreshadows a bright future for the squad. Sure, there were issues with late-game decision-making on offense and undisciplined loose ball fouls on defense, but those are growing pains any young team will experience.The team might not have turned the corner on Thursday night, but they came so close. As long as they are improving, that counts for something.Jake Davidson is a sophomore majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs Mondays.last_img