After finishing in last place in the Pacific 10 Conference his first three seasons at USC, Trojan basketball Coach George Raveling finally seems to have turned the corner.
After ending the regular season with a 91-75 victory over Washington State Saturday at the Sports Arena, the Trojans had their best record (11-15, 6-12) in Raveling's tenure.
"What I think people are looking for is to see some visible evidence that the program is growing," Raveling said. "And I think they saw that this season. In the second half of the conference season they saw that this team was starting to grow in stature."
USC won five of its last nine conference games, including a victory over UCLA.
"I think if we had to start the season all over again right now, I definitely think we'd be in the top four teams in the league," Raveling said.
In the fourth year of a five-year contract, Raveling's job seems to be secure.
"I thought this was a pivotal year," Raveling said. "I think we had to show some evidence we were getting better. (Athletic Director Mike) McGee and (USC President James) Zumberge have shown unusual faith in me. I recognize that I was putting some pressure on their belief in me. But even our most severe critic would have to say that we appear to have this thing headed in the right direction."
Assured of no worse than an eighth-place finish, the Trojans will finish seventh if UCLA beats Washington today. Finishing seventh would place USC in the same bracket with Arizona for the Pac-10 tournament. If the Trojans finished eighth, they would be in the same bracket as Oregon State. USC matches up better with Oregon State than with Arizona.
"Ideally, you don't want to be in Arizona's bracket," Raveling said. "We just have to hope that Washington can take the Bruins tomorrow."
Washington State (7-21, 1-17), which has lost 17 consecutive conference games since beating the Trojans in the Pac-10 opener in November, got off to a good start against USC, taking a 40-39 halftime lead.
Although they were shooting only .426 coming into the game, the Cougars shot .567 in the first half as freshman guard Bennie Seltzer made all six shots he took, including two three-pointers, and Darryl Woods made four of eight shots, including two three-pointers.
Guard Harold Miner kept the Trojans close, scoring 20 of his game-high 29 points in the first 20 minutes. Miner has averaged 23.9 points in his last 12 games.
Guard Robert Pack, who had 17 points and three assists, helped the Trojans break open the game in the second half, scoring five points during a 9-0 run.
USC Coach George Raveling started seniors Chris Munk, Tyrone Fuller and Kyle Kazan, who were playing their last home game. A seldom-used reserve guard, Kazan made his first two shots, both three-pointers, and had a career-high six points. He had scored only 11 points in his career coming into the game. "He was the first guy in the locker room," Raveling said of Kazan. "After shooting practice, he came up to me and told me his shot was really going down. A lot of kids that don't play much would have been scared to shoot those shots."
Munk, who had a season-high 14 rebounds, is ninth on USC's career-rebounding list with 634. . . . Guard Harold Miner needs 40 points to break the Pac-10 freshman scoring record of 577 set by UCLA forward Don MacLean last season.