USC forward Taj Gibson sat slumped by his locker stall, shaking his head, saying, “It’s going to be a long week of school, a long week of class, a long week of practice.”
Trojans’ guard Daniel Hackett leaned back in his chair, being as repetitive as USC’s band.
“Don’t ask me, I don’t have any answers. I have no idea. Don’t ask, I don’t know. I’m at a loss,” Hackett said.
There was the Trojans’ leadership. It was that kind of night at Pauley Pavilion, with USC out of things early and UCLA cruising to a 76-60 victory.
The Trojans began the game among the Pacific 10 Conference elite, sitting one game behind first-place UCLA and Washington.
They left keeping company with the let-them-eat-cake crowd.
USC will have a week to shake this off, and the Trojans wasted little time, closing their locker room for 20 minutes after the game as Coach Tim Floyd spoke to the team.
“He told us about life and basketball,” said Gibson, who injured the ring finger on his right hand in the second half. “He said this is basketball, not life and death. He wants us to play like it’s life and death on the court, but to remember to learn from this.”
Gibson, who had a season-low two points, will have an X-ray on his finger today.
The Trojans need to learn from the loss, as they play four of the next six games on the road, starting with Arizona next Thursday.
USC sits in third place with a 6-4 conference record, but is only 1 1/2 games out of eighth place.
“Four of six on the road, no problem,” Gibson said. “We just need to go in and steal a couple of them.”
The how will be worked out in practice this week, with some film work to learn why they were unable to attain the poise that allowed them to win four of their last five games.
“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” Floyd said.
“We have to regroup. UCLA gave us a spanking. We have to put this game behind us.”
As to what happened against UCLA, Floyd said, “we were not able to duplicate how they play defense in practice.”
USC forward Marcus Johnson, who had averaged eight points off the bench in the last four games, did not play because of a shoulder injury.
Not all the news around Wednesday night’s game took place on the court. UCLA commit Reeves Nelson, a 6-foot-7 forward at Modesto Christian High, was suspended from his prep team for an alcohol-related incident. UCLA had no comment. . . . Before the game, university workers representing the State Employee’s Trades Council picketed outside Pauley Pavilion, carrying signs that read “UNFAIR” on one side and “Beat SC” on the other.
Up next for USC
Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m. PST, FS West: The Trojans get a week off before making a key road swing through Arizona, playing the Wildcats and Arizona State (Feb. 15).
-- Chris Foster