Twenty minutes after practice ended, USC senior guard Dwight Lewis remained in the gym to work on shooting.
Although that is Lewis’ typical routine, any extra shooting lately surely can’t hurt.
After scoring a career-high 22 points Nov. 17 in USC’s season opener against UC Riverside, Lewis has shot 25% in the past two games. Entering the Trojans’ home game today against Nebraska, Lewis described his shooting woes as just a “slump.”
It’s also a sign, USC Coach Kevin O’Neill suggests, that Lewis is now becoming a marked man as the team’s lone returning starter.
“That’s going to be a challenging role for him,” O’Neill said. “If he doesn’t pick it up in terms of intensity and going at guys, they’re going to be coming at him.”
O’Neill added, however, he hasn’t had a problem with Lewis’ shot selection.
Lewis acknowledged the extra attention has affected his game. He had only 11 points on three-for-12 shooting in a Nov. 28 loss to Loyola Marymount. Against Coppin State on Friday, he scored only six points and made two of eight shots.
“A lot of defenses are trying to stop me and deny me the ball,” said Lewis, who led USC last season averaging 14.4 points a game, “If I do get it, I try to penetrate and collapse the lane real tough. That leaves other people open.”
Under the knife
Junior forward Kasey Cunningham said he will have surgery on his injured left knee sometime during winter break, followed by a rehabilitation process he expects to last six months.
He said he has kept a positive attitude through his latest season-ending injury, despite missing all or most of the last three seasons because of recurring knee injuries.
“I have a good supporting cast of family and friends around me, so it’s not that bad,” said Cunningham, who injured his knee against Loyola Marymount. “It’s upsetting to tear your ACL, but you can’t really fight it. It already happened.”
For today’s game, O’Neill says he will stick with Lewis, Donte Smith, Marcus Simmons, Marcus Johnson and Nikola Vucevic as starters and Alex Stepheson, who scored 13 points against Coppin State in his first game with the Trojans, coming off the bench.