After practice Wednesday, USC point guard Jordan McLaughlin stepped off the court at Galen Center and, with a groan, lay face down across the chairs that form USC’s bench.
"It's been a tough couple practices,” he said. “But something we needed.”
USC has experienced this week something new to this season: preparing for a game with a blemish on its record.
Oregon ended USC’s longest winning streak in 46 years, 84-61, last Friday.
USC suffered more than a loss to an Oregon team now ranked No. 15. It was the Trojans’ worst performance of the season.
Players dribbled the ball off their feet. Chimezie Metu, normally a steady shooter, made one of 12 shots. USC turned the ball over 17 times.
"We played poor offensively,” Coach Andy Enfield said, pausing for a moment. “Well, we played poorly defensively, too."
Shooting guard Elijah Stewart said the performance was “a breakdown in all our coverages.” He added that he had “no idea” how it happened.
Of course, had USC been presented this scenario in the preseason, it would’ve taken it. The Trojans have cracked the Associated Press top 25, though they slid to the final spot after the loss. They need only avoid a total collapse during the conference season to gain an NCAA tournament bid. And they did this despite losing forward Bennie Boatwright because of a knee injury in early December.
Boatwright’s initial diagnosis put him out for six to eight weeks. His absence has put extra stress on McLaughlin and Stewart to score, and USC has struggled when they have been held in check.
Boatwright averaged 11.5 points per game last season and was expected to score considerably more this season. His replacement, Nick Rakocevic, is a freshman averaging 5.7 points.
Boatwright resumed shooting recently, but he has not yet begun to run and he is not participating in practices.
Enfield said Boatwright is improving, but “he's not close to that yet. So I would expect it to be a few weeks."
Given USC’s sloppy play, it is unlikely the Trojans would have defeated Oregon on the road anyway, even with Boatwright.
"We're not going to play great every game this season. We knew that,” Enfield said. “We've had our struggles in the first 14 games that we won, but we found ways to make plays and grind some wins out."
USC VS. STANFORD
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Galen Center.
On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 830.
Update: USC Coach Andy Enfield needs one victory for 100 in his career. The Trojans’ winning streak got him to that precipice ahead of schedule. ... Stanford should not pose as stiff a challenge as Oregon, which has won 35 consecutive games at home. Stanford opened Pac-12 play with losses at home, to Arizona State and Arizona. In each game, the Cardinal allowed more than 90 points. Stanford runs its offense through forward Reid Travis, who is averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. Guard Dorian Pickens (13.2) is the only other player averaging double-figures scoring.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand