Effort-wise, USC may not have thrown in the towel for the season. Playing basketball well enough to end a losing streak, however, is a different story.
The Trojans lost their ninth consecutive game Thursday night when Washington State defeated them, 69-62, before a season-low crowd of 1,522 at the Sports Arena.
USC is 11-18 overall and 4-13 in the Pacific 10 Conference and has not won since Feb. 1. The Trojans' final game will be Saturday when they host Washington.
"One more game and the bleeding will stop," said Stais Boseman, who played 40 minutes and had 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. "Something has to stop the bleeding and this being the last game will do that."
It is difficult to believe that USC actually defeated Washington State, 83-81, at Pullman, two months ago. On Thursday, Trojan interim Coach Henry Bibby had only six scholarship players in uniform. Two players, Brandon Martin and Boseman, played the entire game.
"We are a good team, but we're short-handed," said Bibby, 0-8 since taking over as coach. "The guys gave it all they had, but they just got tired there in the end. They were really tired and didn't have a lot of zip."
With senior Mark Hendrickson in the lineup after missing the first meeting between the teams, Washington State took an early 7-2 lead and basically never looked back. The Cougars led the entire game with USC getting within three points only twice early in the second half.
Isaac Fontaine had 20 points, Shamon Antrum had 14 and Hendrickson added 12 and 11 rebounds to lead the Cougars (16-10, 8-9), who ended a nine-year losing streak at the Sports Arena.
"With Hendrickson coming back, that makes [Washington State] that much tougher," Bibby said. "You can't let a team like that get ahead, because once they do, it's tough to come back."
USC's missing-in-action list grew for Thursday's game. Freshman Damion Dawson was not in uniform because of a toe injury. But he was not lonely as he was joined by Ty Reuter (ankle), Tremayne Anchrum (knee), Burt Harris (knee) and Cameron Murray (excused absence).
Martin led USC with 17 points, while David Crouse was a bright spot for the third consecutive game with 13 points and nine rebounds.
"It would be nice if we could just win a game," Bibby said. "The key is to try to keep the guys morale up. . . . We have to stay positive and, hopefully, we will be able to pull out a win."