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Just One Good Look Is All It Took for Martin and USC

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every time that it appears USC is one game away from having its season fall apart, the Trojans come up with a surprise.

On Saturday, guard Brandon Martin put the finishing touch on a determined USC effort with a three-point basket with 0.4 seconds remaining to give the Trojans a 83-81 victory over Washington State before 9,843 at Friel Court.

USC’s victory is even more impressive considering the Trojans’ lackluster 94-72 loss at Washington in their Pacific 10 Conference season opener on Thursday. The Trojans also ended a 15-game conference losing streak and improved their record this season to 8-5, which is one more victory than they had all of last season.

“It’s kind of crazy, this team,” said Stais Boseman, who had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. “Some days we feel like we are the best team in the world, then some days we can’t even dribble.”

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Martin’s basket capped a late USC comeback that saw the Trojans rally from a four-point deficit in the final minute thanks to a three-point shot by Cameron Murray, who had a team-high 18 points, and a key defensive play and basket by Jaha Wilson, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds after not starting for the first time this season.

Following two free throws by Washington State’s Donminic Ellison with eight seconds remaining that gave the Cougars an 81-80 lead, USC Coach Charlie Parker called for Boseman to drive the length of the court and penetrate to the basket. With Ellison, a former teammate with Boseman at Morningside High, in pursuit, Boseman dribbled downcourt into the right corner where he was trapped by the Cougars’ Isaac Fontaine, who was guarding Martin.

Instead of forcing a shot, Boseman passed to the deep corner to Martin, who then made his only three-point attempt of the game.

“It’s ironic, but that last shot was the best look I had all game,” said Martin, who scored seven points on three of nine shooting after entering the game as USC’s leading scoring with a 15.5 average. “I didn’t think about [anything]. I shot the ball with confidence because I know one of my strengths is that I’m a great shooter.”

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For Washington State (7-3), the loss was its second heartbreaker in Pacific 10 play. The Cougars lost in overtime to UCLA Thursday night after having a nine-point lead with four minutes remaining in regulation.

With Murray scoring 13 points, USC started fast against the flat Cougars in taking a 31-20 lead with 5:38 remaining in the first half before Washington State mounted a comeback. With Ellison scoring 10 points in the half, the Cougars outscored USC, 17-8, to trail, 39-37, at halftime.

“That’s when we really messed up when we let them gain confidence early in the game,” Ellison said. “We know that we’re going to have ups and downs in a season and this is definitely a down point for us.”

USC took control early in the second half thanks to the play of Wilson, who was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Maurice Strong. Wilson scored all of his 13 points and had seven rebounds in the second half.

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“I took this game as a wake-up call,” said Wilson, who led the Pacific 10 in rebounding last season. “I had been taking things for granted, and the coaches thought that I wasn’t playing hard enough. I felt that I needed to come out and show that I can play.”

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Trojan Notes

The victory over Washington State marked the third time this season that USC has bounced back from an embarrassing loss. Following a late collapse in an 86-83 loss to Loyola Marymount on Dec. 4, the Trojans responded by winning three in a row. After a 35-point loss at Utah on Dec. 23, they beat then-No. 18 Missouri in the first round of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. . . . The victory was USC’s second in 10 years at Washington State and first on the road in the conference since the last Pacific 10 game of the 1993-94 season when it beat Oregon State, 69-68, on a last-second shot by Damaine Powell, now a graduate manager for the Trojans. . . . Senior forward Tremaine Anchrum, who sat out all of last season and has played in only three games this season, will be sidelined for at least four weeks because of an injured right knee.

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