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December 2, 2007

Mixed 'madness' in loss to Kansas

USC coach Tim Floyd broke the game down to different levels of madness. There is good madness - of which the Trojans had enough. There is bad madness - of which the Trojans had too much.

That does not even account for his personal madness, for the officiating, following USC's 59-55 loss to No. 4 Kansas, Sunday in the Galen Center.

"Coaches look at effort, and I thought we played with tremendous madness on the defensive end," Floyd said. "We've got to not play with madness on the offensive end, and I thought we did in stretches."

USC put forth a frenetic defensive effort, forcing 22 turnovers and giving the Jayhawks many poor looks at the basket. But the Trojans never got themselves under control offensively, rushing shots and giving the ball up 18 times.

O.J. Mayo's 6-for-21 shooting performance was emblematic of the team's struggles, which included an uncharacteristically poor showing at the foul line (10-of-18 as a group).

"We didn't play with the best poise," Mayo said.

Taj Gibson could not stay out of foul trouble for the second-straight game, and the Trojans appeared helpless to rebound without him. Kansas out-rebounded the Trojans 42-30 and 14-6 on the offensive end. It provided a sense of control, even as the score remained close.

"Just got to get nasty," sophomore guard Daniel Hackett said of how USC must adjust without Gibson. "Just got to hit the guy and not let him come through."

Floyd said his guards must rebound better, instead of standing back at times, "assuming Davon (Jefferson) or Taj (Gibson) or Kasey (Cunnigham) are going to get them."

Throughout the second half, a Kansas breakout seemed inevitable. The Jayhawks finally emerged from a 42-42 tie with a 9-0 run over four and a half minutes. The stretch began with a technical foul on the USC bench, when an assistant coach stood up, while Floyd argued a foul call on Cunningham.

"I'm sure that when I go back and watch the film, I will not see their assistants stand up during the game," Floyd said, after using a similar line about a Gibson foul. "I'm sure they stayed secure and locked down the entire game. I'm sure that's what I will see."

Still, to seal the victory, Kansas needed a deep 3-pointer from Mario Chalmers with 20 seconds remaining, which put the Jayhawks up 58-53. Mayo said Chalmers, who finished with a game-high 20 points, was his responsibility on the play.

"That's a shot that we would like for him to take, I think, if we played them again," Mayo said. "He just knocked it down."

Mayo led the Trojans with 19 points, Jefferson scored 17 and Hackett had 11.

Gibson finished with two points.

"I tried learning from the Oklahoma game," he said, regarding the foul trouble. "Coach talked to me about it. … It's just a learning process for me - learning what I have to do, just go back to the tape and see where I make my faults.

"It was a lot different last year. But coming in being the leading the guy, I have to deal with it."

Across the board, No. 22 USC expressed optimism that competition with the likes of Kansas - and then No. 3 Memphis on Tuesday in New York - will help this young Trojan team develop.

"I'm glad actually it happened this early in the season, before we even get into Pac-10 (play)," Hackett said. "A great experience. I feel blessed to be out there on the court playing Kansas, the No. 4 team in the country in our house, and bring them down to the wire."

Along with benefiting from a pre-conference challenge, Floyd said he hopes the players can look at their opponent and gain some understanding of what they have left to accomplish.

"I applaud Kansas on their poise," Floyd said. "That's a veteran team, and hopefully we can grow to that point by the time the season's over. That's our goal."

Jonathan Kay can be reached at Jon@USCFootball.com


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