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USC Sports

USC can’t keep up with Washington in 80-58 loss

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Clippers General Manager Neil Olshey were among the NBA scouts that made the Galen Center seem a little less empty Thursday night.

The executives and other talent evaluators, mostly absent during this debacle of a season for USC, were apparently intrigued by the chance to watch Washington and NBA prospects such as sophomore guard Terrence Ross.

Maybe they’ll be back more often in the next few years to take a closer look at USC’s Byron Wesley.

The freshman from Etiwanda scored 23 points in an 80-58 loss, the third time in three games that Wesley has established a career-best for points.

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On a night when Washington nearly had as many rebounds (49) as USC had points, the 6-foot-5 Wesley’s continuing development was a bright spot for the Trojans.

Wesley could have done more — he made only three of eight free throws — but showed that he will be a key player for the Trojans next season and also, perhaps, a future pro.

“If he becomes a knockdown shooter, he will be a guy that can play for a long time,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said.

USC would have required several career performances to stay with Washington. Ross scored 18 points and former Crenshaw standout Darnell Gant had 14 points and nine rebounds as the Huskies improved to 21-8 and 14-3 in the Pac-12 Conference to clinch at least a share of the regular-season title.

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Washington can win the championship outright by defeating UCLA on Saturday. If they do, the Huskies will be the top-seeded team in next week’s Pac-12 tournament at Staples Center.

“If I was going to be in the NCAA tournament, I wouldn’t want to play those guys,” O’Neill said.

Meantime, USC added another loss to its school-record total, falling to 6-24 and 1-16 in conference play to clinch last place.

Wesley would have preferred a victory to a personal milestone.

But wins have been hard to come by for an undermanned team that could equal its season-worst nine-game losing streak if it does not defeat Washington State on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Wesley scored 18 points against Arizona last Thursday and 22 against Arizona State on Saturday.

“Early in the year I was just trying to get shots and I was not really comfortable on the court,” he said. “Now, I’m focusing on making shots.”

Wesley had eight points in the first half when Washington built a 40-26 lead.

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USC made a minor run, pulling to within nine in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Ross made a three-pointer and C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye added baskets to push the lead back to 16.

gary.klein@latimes.com


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