Free throws almost always come back to haunt those who miss them. The basketball gods, who place the game's fundamentals in high esteem, are vengeful like that.
USC received a painful reminder of this everlasting fact Saturday in its 64-63 loss to Bradley in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament at Springfield, Mass.
With a 63-61 lead and 11 seconds left, USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic went to the free-throw line and missed twice.
On Bradley's next possession, guard Sam Maniscalco put up a three-point shot attempt with one second left, and USC senior guard Marcus Simmons, who ran over to defend the shot, was called for a foul.
Maniscalco, who led Bradley (4-0) with 17 points, made three free throws to hand USC (2-2) its second consecutive loss after a 20-point defeat at home against Rider on Wednesday.
"I felt like I didn't get him, but the referee made the call and I have to respect that call," Simmons said by phone.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill didn't care much about the call.
"We make two free throws, the game is over," he said by phone.
Vucevic led the Trojans with 22 points and 15 rebounds, his third double-double in four games. He made seven of 11 free throws and had made four in a row before missing the last two.
USC led for most of the game until Maniscalo made his fourth three-point shot to put Bradley ahead, 60-59, with 57 seconds left.
On the Trojans' next possession, the ball went inside to Vucevic, who pump-faked to draw a shooting foul, but after the call was made, the Bradley bench drew a technical foul, giving Vucevic two more free throws.
After he made all four to give USC a 63-61 lead, the Braves turned it over and fouled Vucevic, who missed the two free throws.
"We're playing like freshmen," O'Neill said.
USC's freshmen actually played well in their first game outside of the Galen Center. Guard Bryce Jones scored 13 points and had five steals. Forward Garrett Jackson made six of seven shots for 12 points.
Point guard Maurice Jones missed all 10 of his shots. He had four assists and five turnovers.
"We need to bounce back," O'Neill said. "We will."
The Trojans face New Mexico State on Sunday in the tournament.
Holmes reported from Los Angeles.