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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Injuries left USC without a shot in the Pac-12

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat Nic Wise iced the game in double-overtime with a layup with just over one second left to beat the USC Trojans 86-84 Saturday in McKale Center. It was Senior Day for the ‘Cats as Nic Wise played his last game in McKale.

Arizona has had its fair share of untimely injuries this season.

Between the loss of both Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes, as well as the dismissal of Sidiki Johnson, the Wildcats’ 2011-12 campaign hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.

But given USC’s run of major injuries, Sean Miller and his squad have little room for self-pity. The Trojans will take on the Wildcats at 6:30 p.m. in McKale Center tonight with only six active scholarship players after losing five players to season-ending injuries.

“My heart goes out to their team and Kevin (O’Neill),” Miller said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a team experience so many injuries in one season. Not just a couple weeks, season-ending type of injuries. It’s astonishing. There’s no team that can overcome that.”

The injury bug first hit the Trojans in August 2011 when senior point guard Jio Fontan tore a ligament in his left knee and underwent season-ending surgery.

O’Neill called Fontan the “heart and soul” of the Trojans after he helped lead USC into the NCAA Tournament last season by averaging 10.5 points and 3.9 assists in 31.5 minutes while orchestrating the offense.

USC then lost 6-foot-6 forward Aaron Fuller, 6-foot-7 forward Evan Smith and 6-foot-10 forward Curtis Washington — two starters and a rotation player — for the season to injury. The run of bad luck wasn’t even close to over, however.

The Trojans took the biggest blow in late January when 7-foot sophomore, and NBA prospect, DeWayne Dedmon went down with a torn ACL, forcing him to sit for the rest of the season.

Like Arizona, the Trojans are restricted to a seven-man rotation. But O’Neill would likely take Josiah Turner, Kyle Fogg, Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry over his makeshift starting five any day.

The Trojans don’t start a senior and lean exclusively on 5-foot-7 speedy point guard Maurice Jones. While Jones is a constant threat, the rest of O’Neill’s starting five is slim pickings.

And unfortunately for USC, that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of the season, as the Trojans are three losses away from finishing with one win in conference play.

“We kind of have what we have and it’s not changing,” O’Neill said. “There’s nobody getting eligible, there’s no trades. I wish we had a couple of 10-day (contracts), but we can’t do any of that. Our team is as constructed and that’s the way we’re going to be. We just don’t have enough right now.”

Their rash of injuries has brought major struggles from the Trojans. They sit at the bottom of the Pac-12 in almost every major statistical category.

USC is playing as small as it ever has, with only one rotation player, James Blasczyk, standing taller than 6-foot-6. But even he is unable to practice with the team and can only play in games, according to O’Neill.

“We’re a totally different team than we were early on,” O’Neill said. “We don’t have an inside presence defensively.”

Even with USC’s massive struggles, Miller understands the Wildcats’ margin for error is still razor-thin. They need a series sweep to keep their NCAA Tournament chances alive, and even against an injury-depleted Trojans team, anything can happen.

“I don’t feel they’re favorable at all, I really don’t,” Miller said of this weekend’s matchups. “For us, it’s no different than it was three weeks ago before we went to play Cal and Stanford. There’s never been a big picture for us and that’s where we’re at right now.”

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