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Trojans Fall To Gophers Despite Dominant Oraby, 71-57

Jeremy Bergman |
December 8, 2012 | 10:36 p.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

Omar Oraby had a breakout game Saturday night, scoring 15 points in 22 minutes. (Danny Lee/Neon Tommy)
Omar Oraby had a breakout game Saturday night, scoring 15 points in 22 minutes. (Danny Lee/Neon Tommy)
A dominant second-half performance by junior Omar Oraby wasn't enough as the USC Trojans dropped their fifth straight game, and second straight at home, to the 14th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers, 71-57. 

USC started the game off on the wrong foot, surrendering a 9-0 lead to Minnesota within the first three minutes of the game behind seven points from the Hollins duo, Andre and Austin.

"A bad start doomed us, and we've got to be a team that becomes resilient to those type of things," Trojans head coach Kevin O'Neill explained. "We got much better in the second half. We played harder and were much more in tune to the game."

That they were. Sparked by Oraby's performance in the latter half, the Trojans at one point closed the Gopher lead to nine points, until more turnovers and missed free throws, the Trojans' reoccuring demons, reappeared. 

Oraby made the most out of his 22 minutes, a season high for the Egyptian transfer from Rice, netting 15 points on 7-9 shooting and recording two thunderous blocks.

Oraby said after the game, "My teammates did a good job of finding me. When the offense runs through the post, it opens up opportunities."

However, Oraby did struggle from the line, going 1-for-5, including a few crucial one-and-ones down the stretch. And he wasn't the only one. 

The Trojans shot 40% from the line in the second half and were a pitiful 1-for-11 from the three-point line. J.T. Terrell, the Trojan's top scorer on the season, struggled the most, going 0-for-7 from the field, finishing with just two points.

After the game, O'Neill promised changes to the starting lineup, a move the coach hasn't made all year.

"J.T.'s gotta do more, and if he doesn't do more on both ends, then we gotta play someone else," O'Neill declared. "We're gonna play different guys, who play with energy, with force, and who play team basketball."

Let's not forget that USC was playing a top-15 Big Ten squad in the Minnesota Golden Gophers led by veteran coach Tubby Smith, who notched his 500th career victory Saturday night. The Gophers' top scorer, Andre Hollins, had just 14 points, but three other Gophers were in double digits, and seven Gophers had at leastsix points. Their depth proved difficult for USC is adapt to.

Maybe the most impressive Minnesota baller on the night was senior forward Rodney Williams, who led the Gophers to victory with 13 points, 11 boards, five of which were offensive, and at least three monster jams that silenced the at-times raucous Galen Center crowd of 3,271. 

Minnesota was clearly superior to USC in nearly every facet Saturday night, a feeling that has become all too common to O'Neill and his club. USC has now lost four games to currently-ranked teams in the early goings of their 2012-13 campaign.

"This has been a tough stretch," O'Neill admitted. "It's no consolation to lose to five ranked teams. We could've played perfect games and lost."

But O'Neill is optimistic for the rest of the season, which continues next Saturday against UC Riverside.

"I think they're disappointed. Every team thinks they're better than they are at the beginning," he claimed. "But if you focus on the bad, you'll just be sitting around and boo-hooing all the time. We have to build off the good, not the bad. We're not quite ready for that now. We will be."

With the loss, USC falls to 3-6 on the season; the Gophers improve to 10-1, and will certainly climb in the rankings. 

Reach Associate Sports Editor Jeremy Bergman via e-mail or on Twitter at @JABergman



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