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Overtime Loss Has USC’s Bibby Fuming

Special to the Times

Henry Bibby said it was for the kids.

That’s how the USC men’s basketball coach justified his postgame comments Tuesday night after the Trojans had lost, 73-71, in overtime to Rhode Island. Bibby said the referees blew the game and wanted the Rams to win their first game in the Ryan Center, their new $54-million on-campus arena.

“It’s the worst officiated game I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching basketball, since 1981,” said Bibby, who added he was going to protest the result. “I’m not looking for anybody to give me a basketball game. If we deserve to lose the game, then I’ll take losing the basketball game. We learn from those experiences. That’s what you teach your kids. But this was not a life experience in a positive way.”

When Dustin Hellenga, who scored a game-high 26 points, drove to the left baseline and made a fadeaway jumper with 2.2 seconds left, giving Rhode Island a two-point lead, most of the Ram roster and many fans ran on the floor. But time remained.

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According to Bibby, referee Joe DeMayo should have called Rhode Island for a technical foul. Instead, the Trojans inbounded the ball and found Desmon Farmer open on the left wing. Farmer’s shot bounced off the rim twice and fell in, an apparent game-winner.

Bibby raced into the locker room, pointing his right index finger upward. His team followed. It seemed the Trojans had escaped with a win, despite committing 25 turnovers and trailing most of the game.

“I was waiting on that shot three plays ago and I finally got it,” said Farmer, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and overtime. “There’s no question, we were happy.”

DeMayo huddled around a television screen, near midcourt. After watching a replay for a couple of minutes, he ruled that Farmer’s shot was after time expired, causing a second Rhode Island celebration. The Trojans, in their locker room, heard the noise.

“I hope when we open our new arena out at USC, I can have these three same officials come out and officiate that game,” Bibby said. “I would pay for those three guys to come out and referee my game.”

USC was called for nine more fouls than the Rams and shot 10 free throws. Rhode Island shot 25 free throws.

Would Bibby have protested even if Farmer’s shot had counted? “Absolutely,” he said, tersely.

It was a disappointing loss for the Trojans (1-1) against one of the worst Atlantic-10 teams. Since the Jim Harrick-led Rams advanced to the NCAA tournament in 1997 and 1998, Rhode Island has regressed.

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The Rams went 8-20 last season, their best record in three years.

“We’re a very young basketball team,” Bibby said. “And they’re a good basketball team.”

So it went, as Bibby refused to blame his team’s woes on the players’ mistakes and missed shots.

USC had a chance to win at the end of regulation. Errick Craven, who would foul out and missed nine of 12 shots, drove to his left. But Rhode Island’s Dawan Robinson blocked Craven’s shot at the buzzer.

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In overtime, USC committed five turnovers, took no shots from the field and scored four points.

Robert Hutchinson led USC with 17 points. Brian Woodward had 11 points for the Rams (2-0).

“I’m not upset,” Bibby said. “But I think it’s a shame and disgrace it had to be called that way. It hurts the kids.”


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