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USC Coach Kevin O’Neill knows his players are logging too many minutes

USC has passed the halfway point of conference play, but the Trojans look ready to pass out.

The Trojans (12-11 overall, 4-6 in Pacific 10 Conference play), crippled by scholarship limitations and several defections connected with NCAA penalties, have only a seven-man rotation.

With all the minutes those seven have played — four are averaging more than 30 minutes per game and three rank in the Pac-10’s top seven for minutes played — the Trojans look exhausted.

“It’s obvious our guys are playing too many minutes,” Coach Kevin O’Neill said Tuesday. “It really is.”

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Especially lately. USC has played wearily while losing five of its last seven games entering Thursday’s game against Oregon State (9-13, 4-7) at the Galen Center.

In an effort to keep players fresh, the team practices every other day during the season, mostly light and between 45 minutes to an hour.

“I’m a three-hour-practice-a-day guy most of the time,” O’Neill said. “We haven’t been able to do any of that.”

Freshman guard Maurice Jones, who averages a Pac-10-leading 36.5 minutes per game, said the players recently started receiving weekly massages and a nutritionist has been advising them about foods such as chicken and pasta that better sustain their energy.

But junior guard Jio Fontan said USC might have lost a step for a different reason.

“It’s hard to play like you have pep in your step if you’re not playing well,” he said.

Two-sport recruit?

Gardena Serra High senior Marqise Lee played wide receiver and defensive back on the Cavaliers’ football team and also played for the school’s basketball team.

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And when he comes to USC, he might stay a two-sport athlete.

“I’m planning on doing it,” he said by phone this week.

Football Coach Lane Kiffin has given the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Lee his permission to try out for basketball.

Lee said he hasn’t talked to O’Neill about it yet, but O’Neill has seen Lee play basketball and said he is welcome to try.

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“He’s a good basketball player,” O’Neill said. “Hopefully, he’s a guy that has a great football career first. We’ll take our lead from football in terms of what they want him to do football-wise.”

Lee caught 57 passes for 1,409 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.

Works of art

The sixth annual Louis Galen Artletics Exhibition was to open at the Galen Center on Thursday, featuring art produced by USC athletes.

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Two clay ceramic pieces were made by freshman forward Garrett Jackson. One is what he called an exaggerated version of a pine cone; the other an interpretation of a Chinese temple.

But Jackson, who’s averaging four points this season, said he’s by no means an artist. He hasn’t declared a major but aims to study business. He took ceramics to fill a class slot, and he put his art on display only because his instructor asked him to.

It’s the first art he has produced since middle school, when, he said, “I took an art class for a semester, but my teacher was mean so I hated it.”

baxter.holmes@latimes.com


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