January 30, 2011
UPDATE: Nikola Vucevic apologized for his postgame comments on Sunday, telling the Los Angeles Times he "didn't mean to offend anybody." Here's the full story.
"I felt like we played like women," the 6-foot-10 junior told reporters after the game. "We didn't play hard at all. Every single one of us just played like women."
Of course, the irony to Vucevic's statements is that the Trojans probably would have a far better record if they emulated some of the qualities of USC's women's basketball team. The Women of Troy are 13-7 overall, tied for third place in the Pac-10 and contending for an NCAA tournament berth in part because they don't let up defensively every time they win a game the way the men's team does.
At 12-10 overall and 4-5 in conference play, the USC men are easily the Pac-10's most confounding team.
In games in which the Trojans defend with focus and intensity, they've upset Tennessee on the road, held high-flying Texas to a season-low 56 points and limited Stanford to its worst shooting night of the shot-clock era. And in games in which the Trojans don't play with that same purpose for whatever reason, they've gotten blown out by the likes of Rider and TCU or swept on the road by the Oregon schools.
The Wildcats are certainly deeper and probably more talented than the Trojans, yet there's no excuse for USC allowing them to shoot a season-high 61.2 percent from the field or 52.6 percent from behind the arc. Neither Derrick Williams (20 points) nor MoMo Jones (17 points) missed a shot in 12 combined field goal attempts.
"We beat Arizona State and we thought we were a great team and could beat anybody," Vucevic told the Los Angeles Times. "It happens every time we get a big win. It's got to stop."
Now there's an explanation everyone should agree on.