USC has dropped a lot of games that looked a lot like Sunday's 72-57 loss to Stanford, but Derrick Dowell is tired of seeing them anyway. Just because it's happened before doesn't make it any more comfortable.
The Trojans seemed to be catching the Cardinal at a good time, only three days after UCLA scorched Stanford by 31 points.
And when USC cut a 16-point Stanford lead to 55-47 midway through the second half, it looked as though the Trojans had a chance for their second Pacific-10 road victory.
They never got any closer. Instead, they got sloppy.
Dowell threw an alley-oop pass out of bounds, intended for Chris Munk.
Ivan Harris threw a jump-pass out of bounds, intended for Rich Grande.
Dowell missed the front end of a one-and-one at the foul line.
Dowell dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds.
Three minutes later, Stanford had scored three times inside the USC defense and the Cardinal was on its way, 63-51.
Dowell, who scored 21 points and had 7 rebounds, also had five of USC's 15 turnovers, and he wasn't happy about it.
"That's indicative of how we've been playing all year long," he said. "Turnovers have plagued us all the time. I really don't know what it is. When we close to within a few points, we fall apart.
"I thought we were improving, but now we're stagnant again," Dowell said. "This game is definitely a mental letdown."
USC Coach George Raveling said the Trojans had enough chances and defended Dowell, although he didn't have to. At least Dowell, the Trojans' leading scorer in 16 of USC's 21 games, makes things happen and more of them are good than bad.
"Don't misunderstand," Raveling said. "We would be in a disaster zone if we didn't have him."
Raveling spoke of the Trojans' missed chances. "I would suggest to you there are only so many opportunities that a team gets and when you don't take advantage, you suffer an ill fate," he said.
"If someone knocks at your door and offers something and you don't take it, you have nobody to blame but yourself."
That ill fate was delivered by the hands of Stanford's Todd Lichti, who blamed himself for Thursday's 93-62 loss to UCLA when he was held to a career-low four points.
So Lichti came back against USC with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal in 39 minutes of work that also included a bloody nose in a scramble beneath the basket.
Lichti made all three of the three-pointers he attempted and led Stanford to a 35-25 halftime lead. That was also the margin by which UCLA led Stanford at halftime.
"It makes it easier if you don't get behind so early," Lichti said.
It's becoming a lot more difficult for USC, which fell to 3-9 in the Pac-10 and an eighth-place tie with Washington State. If the conference tournament began today, USC would play Washington State in a first-round game.
There's still a lot for USC to play for, principally the chance to improve its seeding in the tournament. If the Trojans move up to seventh, they would play the last-place conference team in the tournament.
"With this team, we're going to have to work for everything," Dowell said. "Nothing comes easy for us. Everybody knows that. We don't have all the talent in the world and it's obvious we don't.
"Of course, we're not going to win the Pac-10, but we have to win some games so we feel good about the tournament," he said. "If we continue to lose like we are now, it would take four straight games to win the Pac-10 tournament. That would be an incredible feat."
Both Bob Erbst and Rod Keller, the rest of USC's starting front line, got into foul trouble and that allowed 6-8, 250-pound Stanford forward Eric Reveno loose for 10 rebounds. Erbst finished with 9 points in 22 minutes, but Keller never got going. In 26 minutes, Keller had only one rebound.
However, USC freshman Chris Munk made the most of his opportunity to play when he and Dowell started cutting into Stanford's 50-34 lead.
Munk, who had averaged only 13 minutes a game, played 22 minutes and scored all seven of his points in a span of 1:40.
Dowell and Munk scored USC's next 13 points. Munk's short jumper and a driving basket by Dowell put the Trojans to within 55-47, which is where the mistakes took them out of the game.
Munk, who also had five rebounds, sounded a note of optimism. "Hopefully, there are going to be better games for us ahead," he said.