Free throws are partly to blame for the free fall

When a team shoots worse at the free-throw line than the other team shoots from beyond the three-point line, it’s in trouble.

Such was the case for USC in a 75-63 loss to Stanford on Saturday. The Trojans were nine for 21 on free throws. The Cardinal was 12 for 22 on three-pointers.

“A missed free throw is a momentum changer,” USC Coach Tim Floyd said. “We missed free throws in key situations, as well. That gives the other team a big lift.”

This is hardly a new phenomenon for the Trojans. They were shooting 67.1% from the line, ranking them ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference.

“We have been about 65 to 66%, all year long,” Floyd said. “You can win with that. We weren’t that against California and we weren’t that over here tonight.”


Gibson rebounds

There was one silver lining during a cloudy and extremely dark few days in the Bay Area. Forward Taj Gibson appears to have returned to form.

He had 19 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out Saturday. It followed up a 21-point, 12-rebound game in an overtime loss to California on Thursday.

“Last two games, I felt better than I have in a while,” Gibson said.

Gibson had been a dominant inside player through the first nine Pacific 10 Conference games, with four double-doubles in that time. But after suffering a separated finger on his left hand, his numbers slipped.

He was averaging 11 points and five rebounds in the four games before Thursday.

“I had to battle through it, there are no excuses because of the finger,” he said. “I had to play and if I messed up, I messed up.”

Still, he acknowledged, “My finger felt a lot better this weekend.”

Gibson scored the Trojans’ last nine points in the first half Saturday, as they were up by nine points before settling for a 33-29 halftime lead.

Senior moments

Stanford held its senior day, and the four Cardinal players playing their last game at home paid the fans back.

Anthony Goods had 20 points, making seven of 10 shots, Lawrence Hill 14, Kenny Brown 14 and Mitch Johnson 10.

Transition points

The loss was USC’s seventh consecutive at Stanford, the only place where Floyd has not won in conference. . . . Marcus Simmons scored 11 points for USC, becoming the first starter other than Gibson, Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett and DeMar DeRozan to reach double figures in a conference game.