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Dewayne Dedmon contributes, in a bad way, as USC loses to UNLV

Reporting from Las Vegas -- Dewayne Dedmon’s face belonged on a milk carton in USC’s previous four games.

The 7-foot sophomore had all but vanished from the box scores, turning Coach Kevin O’Neill’s lofty hype that Dedmon was a future NBA lottery pick into a foolhardy forecast.

Against Nevada Las Vegas on Friday, Dedmon finally made an impact — only not the kind he wanted.

Showcasing the inexperience of a player who began playing organized basketball at 18, Dedmon drew a game-turning technical foul in the second half that keyed UNLV’s 66-55 win in the Las Vegas Invitational.

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With USC leading by two and 9 minutes 38 seconds left, Dedmon argued a bit too much with a referee after being issued his fourth personal foul.

“It was pretty shocking,” said Dedmon, who scored four points in five minutes, “but I guess I did enough to get a technical.”

After the call, the Rebels (6-0) went on an 8-0 run. And later, after USC forward Aaron Fuller fouled out, a 9-2 surge clinched their victory while the largely pro-UNLV crowd of 7,200 at the Orleans Arena cheered them on.

“Those kinds of things hurt,” O’Neill said of the technical. “He knows it wasn’t the right thing.”

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USC (2-4) on Saturday will face South Carolina, which lost, 87-62, to No. 1-ranked North Carolina on Friday night.

About two dozen NBA scouts lined press row for a look at the Tar Heels. For those who saw Dedmon, the glimpse was disappointing.

Earlier this week, O’Neill stood by his high-praise projection about Dedmon but said the sophomore had been affected by the hype.

On Friday, Dedmon disagreed.

“I’m just really trying to play and struggling at the start,” he said. “Once I get into a flow, I feel everything will get better.”

What’s he struggling with most?

“Just the whole speed of Division I college basketball,” he said.

USC is also struggling with how to finish games after losing for the fourth time this season despite leading in the second half.

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“It’s something we’ve got to figure out,” said guard Maurice Jones, who scored 11 points.

UNLV, led by Oscar Bellfield’s 14 points, made 17 free throws to USC’s six, extending the Trojans’ trend of being outscored from the line.

Other lopsided categories favoring UNLV: points off turnovers (28 to nine) and bench points (28 to eight).

Those statistics negated 16-point efforts by freshman guard Byron Wesley and Fuller, and the fact that USC outshot UNLV from the floor, 52% to 41%.

O’Neill isn’t worried — or at least he isn’t admitting it.

“I don’t know what anybody expected,” he said. “You change your whole roster for the third time in three years, it’s just the way it is.

“I’m not down on the way we’re playing at all.”

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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