Pac-12 basketball: Injuries leave O'Neill, USC in survival mode

2012-02-01T00:01:00Z Pac-12 basketball: Injuries leave O'Neill, USC in survival modePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 01, 2012 12:01 am  • 

Dewayne Dedmon crumpled in a heap, holding his knee, mere minutes into USC's game Thursday against Colorado.

The Trojans crumpled thereafter, losing by 24.

After the game, USC coach Kevin O'Neill admitted his team didn't have a "snowball's chance in hell" without Dedmon. The 7-foot power forward suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.

Dedmon, a sophomore, was the fifth USC player lost for the season with an injury. It was enough to make the coach wonder what was next.

"I was expecting to walk out to the parking lot," O'Neill said, "and have a van fall on my head."

In that context, the Trojans' next game might have been the most unlikely of the Pac-12 season.

USC blew out lowly Utah 62-45 on Saturday for its first league win of the season. The home locker room was "relieved" afterward, O'Neill said.

"Players walk around all the time. … Their self-worth comes from what they're doing, basketball-wise," he said.

The game "came down to a couple teams that were a little bit wounded," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

"They played harder," he said, "and put it on us."

The Trojans seemed different after the injury to Dedmon, who averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

"Our assistants made the comment in the locker room during warm-ups that they didn't have much life," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said.

For the most part, though, the 6-16 Trojans are still trying despite the star-crossed season.

"When Dewayne went down … it just really took the wind out of our guys' sails," O'Neill said. "I thought that was the only time all year."

O'Neill seems to have the support of athletic director Pat Haden; the coach said USC's administration has been "wonderful."

O'Neill said he'd never seen such a rash of injuries.

Four of the five players that started USC's first Brazilian exhibition game - Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller, Evan Smith and Dedmon - have since suffered season-ending injuries. Forward Curtis Washington also suffered a shoulder injury.

Their injuries have left USC with two freshmen, three sophomores and two walk-ons in their regular rotation. Only one player is taller than 6 feet 6 inches.

O'Neill called his time as Arizona's coach "challenging" but said this season has been "off the charts."

The win over Utah helped.

"It was nice. It had been a long time, obviously," O'Neill said. "This season is what it is. It's been unavoidable, with the injuries."

Who are you?

Only five of USC's 10 remaining healthy players played for the Trojans last year. Here's where everyone else was:

• James Blasczyk, C - Lee College

• Alexis Moore, G - Long Beach Poly High School

• Byron Wesley, G - Etiwanda High School

• Greg Allen, G - Navarro College

• Danilo Dragovic, G - Harvard-Westlake High School, but did not play basketball there

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