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Bibby Is Happy With Everything but Record

Times Staff Writer

How’s this for some holiday cheer? Coach Henry Bibby, a notorious perfectionist who’s seemingly never happy with the play of his team, is comfortable with the Trojans as they prepare to open Pacific 10 Conference play Thursday at Washington State.

“I’m happy with where we are,” Bibby said of the Trojans, who are 4-3 after losing three senior starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team.

“Of course you’d like to be 7-0. We’re not, but we’re growing, getting better and the kids are finding their identity. That’s what you hope for.”

And while Bibby wasn’t exactly hoping for a better record, he did say that the Trojans could realistically be 6-1.

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“We had a chance to beat Missouri and I think we should have won the game at Rhode Island,” he said. The Trojans lost to Missouri, 78-72, after blowing an 11-point second-half lead and suffered a controversial 73-71 overtime defeat at Rhode Island, where fans ran onto the court before the game clock expired.

“Santa Barbara beat us,” Bibby said. “We played very poorly and they played well. That’s probably the only game that we [truly were beaten]. They outplayed us in every category. They wanted the game more than we did so we would have had to play a great game to win that game and we did not play well in any phase.”

Neither have the Gauchos since beating USC, 69-53. They’ve lost five straight games.

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Junior forward Jerry Dupree, who missed USC’s first seven games, pleased more than himself and teammates by retaining his academic eligibility, which was in doubt until this week.

“I made my father [Jerry Sr.] proud,” he said. “He’s happy now that he doesn’t have to worry about his fellas at work hounding him, asking him if his son’s coming back. I’m back now.”

Bibby, though, tempered his enthusiasm.

“He will make us deeper but our next game is in the Pac-10 and that’s no time to experiment,” Bibby said. “He has to get in shape -- he’s in terrible shape -- and show that he deserves playing time.”

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