USC point guard Jordan McLaughlin had the ball in his hands with a chance to win or tie several games in final possessions this season.
The freshman fell short each time, but he appeared to be growing more confident.
On Wednesday night against Oregon, the struggling Trojans found themselves once again in what has become a familiar situation.
But this time McLaughlin was unavailable — and he could be for a while.
McLaughlin reinjured his surgically repaired left shoulder in the second half and could only watch as the Trojans lost to Oregon, 80-75, at Galen Center.
Kahlil Dukes' miss on a three-point attempt with 25 seconds left was the last real hope for a Trojans team that suffered its ninth consecutive defeat.
USC fell to 9-15 and 1-11 in the Pac-12 Conference with its 11th loss in 12 games.
Wednesday's defeat was the latest of several that came down to the end. The Trojans recently lost to Colorado in triple overtime and on a buzzer-beater at California.
“It's a little unlucky,” Coach Andy Enfield said, “but at the same time we've had our chances.”
McLaughlin might not be there to take advantage if the Trojans have more opportunities down the stretch.
McLaughlin, who suffered a right shoulder injury in January that forced him to sit out two-plus games, said he was injured Wednesday when he attempted to “swipe down at the ball” in the hands of an Oregon player. He said he would have an MRI exam on his left shoulder Thursday.
In high school, McLaughlin suffered a torn labrum and required postseason surgery.
Now, after playing well of late, his status is uncertain.
“Frustration is pretty high,” he said, “but, you know, I've just got to keep staying positive.”
That was the message from Enfield and other players after the Trojans came back from a slow start and a 14-point deficit, only to fall short again.
“It hurts,” sophomore forward Darion Clark said. “We just keep coming close and failing to win games. ... We're fighting. It's not like we're going out there and just laying down and losing games.
“We're fighting till the end. Tonight we had a slow start.”
USC made two of its first 12 shots and gave Oregon uncontested baskets as the Ducks took a 12-point lead.
“Play some D, will ya?” a woman in the crowd yelled.
The Ducks immediately extended their lead with Jordan Bell's thunderous dunk.
USC trailed by eight points at halftime, and needed less than three minutes to tie the score, 39-39, on McLaughlin's basket off a drive to the rim.
But Oregon guard Joseph Young took over and scored seven of his 26 points to put the Ducks ahead.
USC fought back and trailed, 76-73, when Oregon passed the ball out of bounds to give the Trojans possession with 38.6 seconds left.
With Katin Reinhardt struggling and McLaughlin sidelined, Trojans guard Julian Jacobs had scored a career-best 18 points. Dukes had come off the bench to make three of five shots.
But Dukes' final shot, a three-point attempt from the left side, bounced off the rim and Young clinched the victory with two free throws.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein