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USC falls short against Colorado in Pac-12 tournament

LAS VEGAS -- Andy Enfield successfully guided Florida Gulf Coast’s transition into being a NCAA Division I basketball team.

Now he can try the same thing with USC.

Enfield and Florida Gulf Coast were the feel-good story in the NCAA tournament a year ago. The Eagles, with a “Dunk City” nickname, upset second-seeded Georgetown and seventh-seeded San Diego State.

It was a spotlight dance that had just about anyone with a coaching vacancy wooing Enfield. But his first season at USC ended Tuesday with far less fanfare.

BOX SCORE: Colorado 59, USC 56

The Trojans scrapped their way through 40 minutes against Colorado, only to come up inches short in a 59-56 loss in a Pac-12 tournament first-round game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Buffaloes (22-10) couldn’t exhale until Byron Wesley’s three-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

The win put Colorado up against California in one of Thursday’s quarterfinal games. The loss sent USC (11-21) home to begin working on next season.

“We had a long-term plan and a short-term plan,” Enfield said. “The short term was to make this team the best we could be now. I give our players a lot of credit. They did improve and they played hard.”

The short-term plan ended with last-place finish in conference play. Florida Gulf Coast had as many victories in last season’s NCAA tournament as the Trojans had in the Pac-12 this season.

But Enfield is trying to turn a program that was 14-18 last season and 6-26 in 2012. He is the Trojans’ fourth coach in six seasons. Which leads to his long-term plan.

“You look at the top 25 teams in the country, they are very talented,” Enfield said. “You see skill, shooting, ballhandling, big men that can run the floor. We have a talented group right now. But as a coaching staff, you are always recruiting.”

Shooting should be at the top of the shopping list.

USC shot 40% against Colorado. Wesley, who had a game-high 23 points, was eight of 15 from the field. The rest of the Trojans were 14 for 40 (35%).

The Trojans took a 45-40 lead with 10 minutes left before Colorado went on an 18-5 run.

Asked about the drought, Enfield said, “Well, it would have been nice for someone to make a shot once in a while. I say that jokingly, but we have to make open shots.”

That may be less of a problem next season, when Enfield’s first recruiting class arrives. It includes Etiwanda High’s Jordan McLaughlin, considered a top high school point guard. The Trojans will also have Katin Reinhardt, a transfer from Nevada Las Vegas.

“There are certain young men on our team who have to have huge off-seasons from a skill perspective,” Enfield said. “That means offensively, defensively, their conditioning, their weight training.”

Things turned around quickly at Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles moved to Division I for the 2011-12 season, Enfield’s first year on the job, and went 15-17. FGC was 26-11 last season and became the first 15th-seeded team to reach a regional semifinal.

That and his team’s frenetic pace, made Enfield an intriguing hire by USC. Last season remained a talking point while the Trojans tried to get traction this season.

“For our players sake at FGCU, it was a special time for them,” Enfield said. “They accomplished something that had never been done before in the tournament.

“I moved on. I made the decision to leave and come to USC. The FGCU success, we’ll always be linked. It brings a smile on my face whenever anyone talks about it.

“But we’re focused on what we’re trying to do at USC.”

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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