Maurice Jones is weary.He’s weary after watching the USC men’s basketball team lose a school-record 23 times this season.He’s weary after playing more than 1,000 minutes — a rate of 34.1 per game, seventh-highest in the country.He’s weary after scoring more than a quarter of the Trojans’ total points.One-man show · Sophomore Maurice Jones is one of two Trojans averaging double figures. The other, Aaron Fuller, is out for the season. – Luciano Nunez | Daily Trojan“It’s a big difference from last year and I played a lot last year,” the sophomore guard said. “There have been games where I find myself a little more tired. Just running up and down, I kind of feel it in my legs and it takes a little more time to catch my breath.”USC coach Kevin O’Neill never anticipated that the 5-foot-7 Jones would be forced to have such a significant role — not at this stage in his career, at least.O’Neill recruited Jones, a native of Saginaw, Mich., as part of a four-member class in 2010, reeling in other prospects such as Garrett Jackson, Bryce Jones and Curtis Washington.But Jones, a guard from nearby Woodland Hills, Calif., transferred just two months into his freshman season, and Washington, a sophomore forward, hasn’t played a minute all year because of a shoulder injury sustained last August.Factor in four more season-ending injuries to a handful of players, including three starters, and it’s easy to see why Jones has been given such a prominent role in recent months. A role, however, that hasn’t necessarily been all that easy.“It’s a lot to ask of him as a sophomore — to get you 20 [points] a game every game when you have a young team and all these injuries,” O’Neill said.More or less, Jones has been the elder statesman in the Trojans’ starting lineup. Currently, the unit also consists of two freshmen in guards Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley, coupled with Jackson, a sophomore forward, and junior center James Blasczyk who, despite his experience, is still in his first year with the program after transferring from Lee College in Baytown, Texas.“We’re shorthanded right now,” said Jones, who hasn’t played less than 38 minutes in a game all season. “We just want everyone to get better.”But getting better is slightly subjective, especially considering the Trojans have dropped 16 of their last 17 contests and remain in a seemingly never-ending tailspin.And though Jones leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game, in his last four games he has struggled scoring-wise, making just 13 of 52 field goal attempts.One explanation: He’s out of position, playing point guard as opposed to shooting guard — his natural position, according to O’Neill.“He plays better off the ball,” O’Neill said. “His game suffered more than anybody’s when Jio [Fontan] went down. It’s just put him where he’s on the ball too much; too many minutes.”Fontan, a senior, was slotted to start at point guard, as he did last season when the Trojans secured an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.But as has been well-documented, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during an exhibition game in Brazil in August, causing a sort of ripple effect.Jones, as a result, is the Trojans’ only returner who played any significant minutes for last season’s 19-win team.At times, he’s looked more than comfortable. During a 63-60 win over South Carolina in the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 26, he registered 28 points, one shy of his career high, and connected on all seven 3-point attempts to break USC’s single-game school record. Similarly, a month later, he finished with 25 points and four 3-pointers in a 24-point home rout against TCU.Then, there are the times he struggles. Against UCLA earlier this month, he made 3-of-11 shot attempts for eight points. And during the month of February, he has averaged 10.29 points per game — a dip below his season average, as the Trojans were winless.“It’s always frustrating because you want to win,” Jones said. “I want to do well. And I want to see everyone else do well. We just ]don’t have] the number of guys and the ability to do that.”The hope is that Jones’ load will be a bit lighter next year. He won’t be forced to carry a team so young, so inexperienced. Returning will be backcourt teammates Fontan and Moore, in addition to highly regarded Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell. He likely won’t average more than 38 minutes per game again, either.Looking toward 2013 might not make the current predicament any easier — the Trojans still have at least three games left this season — but simply hearing “next year” seems to be the closest thing to a glimmer of hope for now.“It’s not going to be like this next year,” Jones insists. “I don’t plan on us having another season like this. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
The Trojans men’s basketball team (9-10, 1-6 Pac-12) lost its fourth straight game with a 59-55 loss to the Oregon State Beavers (14-5, 5-2), who won their third game in a row.USC was led by redshirt sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt with 17 points, including 4-7 from three, while sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic added 13 points and 6 boards. Freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin had a game-high seven assists but only shot 2-11 from the field for 9 points. McLaughlin has lost his stroke as of late, as he only shot 4-15 in the Trojans’ loss to Oregon.With his Hall of Fame dad in attendance, OSU guard Gary Payton II had a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season. Forward Jarmal Reid added 14 points off the bench, the same amount scored by the entire bench of the Trojans. The surprising Beavers are now 12-0 at home.“If you ask me what the difference in the game was, our guards have got to step up and make some shots,” said USC head coach Andy EnfieldThe Beavers pulled away in the first half with an 11-2 run led by Reid. It looked as if the Beavers were going to roll to a comfortable win, but the Trojans fought back with a 9-0 run of their own to cut the first half deficit to two. The first half was a back-and-forth affair that included seven lead changes and one tie in the first eight minutes of the game.Oregon State then went on to take an early 8-point lead in the second half, thanks to three consecutive shots from distance from forward Olaf Schaftenaar, but the Trojans stormed back with an 11-0 run, capped by a three from Reinhardt, to take a 3-point lead before Oregon State came charging back and took the lead for good after a layup by Reid with 10:02 remaining.USC had a chance to tie the game with a three late in the game, but sophomore guard Julian Jacobs turned the ball over with nine seconds left and Payton clinched the game with a free throw that sent USC home having lost both games in Oregon.USC was not dominated in any aspect of the game but Oregon State did just enough to hold off the Trojans.The Trojans continued to shoot poorly from the field, only making 34 percent of their baskets. They are currently tied for last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage, averaging 41.9 percent from the field. And while not the sole reason for the defeat, the Trojans did commit 10 turnovers, something that plagued this young team early in the season.Despite the poor performance by the Trojan bench, redshirt sophomore forward Darion Clark continued to be productive with 8 points and 8 rebounds to lead the second unit.The freshmen for USC struggled again against the Beavers. Guard Elijah Stewart only scored 2 points, that came on a breakaway dunk and forward Malik Martin was held scoreless in his limited playing time.Martin only played three minutes and was replaced in the starting lineup by guard Malik Marquetti, who was also held without a point in the contest.“They played really hard, they played excellent defense,” Enfield told the Los Angeles Times. “Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of the stick.”The Trojans return home on Thursday to face the Colorado Buffaloes (10-9, 3-4) as they look to improve their conference record to close out the month. Colorado is led by guard Askia Booker, as they are dealing with injuries to their two big-time scorers, forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson.The Buffaloes are coming off a win over Washington State as they head to Los Angeles to play USC and UCLA. Colorado is winless on the road thus far this season and USC is 6-4 at home.
1 Arsenal remain locked in talks with Valencia over a deal for Shkodran Mustafi, talkSPORT understands.The Germany international’s agent Ali Bulut has revealed the defender has already agreed personal terms with the North London side, but the two parties are yet to agree a fee.Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is desperate to bolster his defensive options with Per Mertesacker and Gabriel sidelined with long term injuries.With Laurent Koscielny only back in training this week after his exploits with France at Euro 2016, young defenders Calum Chambers and new arrival from Bolton Rob Holding are Wengers only real centre-back options.Mustafi is valued at around £30million and was part of the Germany squad which reached the semi finals of Euro 2016.The 24-year-old stopper began his career at Everton before moving on to Sampdoria, where he was sold to Valencia in 2014 for around £7m.He has a contract at the Mestalla until 2019 and his excellent performances in Spain have caught the eye of Wenger, who needs to move fast in the market to plug the holes in his backline before the big kick off against Liverpool on Sunday. Shkodran Mustafi in action for Valencia