Sometimes, USC freshman Evan Mobley looks a little soft, a little too languid.
But Mobley lived up his billing Thursday night — after a slow start — and carried USC past Utah.
“It was a long game, a hard game. That’s what March Madness — the postseason — is,” Mobley said. “There (are) going to be a lot of big shots, a lot of overtimes, hard games. So, you’ve just got to push through, stay tough and stay focused.”
For all the hype with Mobley, there have been times he disappeared in games this season, including the first half Thursday when he got two fouls.
But if USC is going to make an NCAA Tournament run, Mobley needs to play like he did in the overtime periods Thursday night. The biggest problem is some other players think they should take the big shots in crunch time instead of Mobley.
Andy Enfield doesn’t like to make post players the focal point of the offense but Mobley needs to be featured more.
- The law of averages suggests USC could beat Colorado. The Trojans have lost six straight to the Buffaloes.
“We’re going to have to play well to beat (USC),” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “We’re going to have to play better than we played tonight — I can promise you that — and I really believe that we will.”
- USC will face Colorado on Friday in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals at 8:30 p.m. PT on ESPN, which means most of us can watch it.
- Some USC football players tell me that their nickname for new strength coach Robert Stiner is “Proud Boy” because of his large beard and many arm tattoos.
And now for some history:
- Let’s start off in 1980.
- Do you remember the Probation Bowl?
In 1980, the Pac-10 ruled USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State were ineligible for the league title and postseason games because of “violations of conference rules and standards in the areas of unearned credits, falsified transcripts and the unwarranted intrusion of athletic department interests into the academic processes of the respective universities.”
A group of four USC students and one UCLA student decided to call that year’s USC-UCLA game “The Probation Bowl” and began selling T-shirts for $5. The shirts said “1980 Probation Bowl: USC vs. UCLA” and featured a football behind bars.
Soon, the phrase caught fire and the T-shirts were mentioned in the L.A. Times and Sports Illustrated. The students sold more than 4,500 shirts before the game.
Naturally, USC tried to ruin the feel-good story. It’s official vendor started selling “Probation Bowl” shirts and the students were actually arrested for selling their shirts in Exposition Park before a game.
“I think it was very low for the Coliseum to plagiarize our T-shirt idea and then arrange to have a student group arrested for selling T-shirts,” said student Marjorie Mowry.
USC football players Hoby Brenner, James Hunter, Ronnie Lott, Keith Van Horne, Dennis Smith and Speedy Hart at the UCLA game bonfire rally in 1980.
UCLA won the game, 20-17. I’ll have more on the game in the Friday Football Supplement newsletter.
- As if losing wasn’t enough, USC tailback Marcus Allen suffered an eye injury in the game and went to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital that night. Allen stayed several days in the hospital and was forced to wear patches over both eyes.
Allen missed the Notre Dame game, but USC ended up winning, 20-3.
- USC coach John Robinson was unbeaten for 28 straight games from 1978-80 (26-0-2) until the No. 2-ranked Trojans were upset by Washington, 20-10, at the Coliseum on Nov. 7, 1980.
- In 1969, USC coach John McKay offered some recruiting observations, including the idea that a recruit’s reputation was inflated as soon as they committed to USC.
“You put a USC uniform on someone and everybody suddenly considers him better than anyone else,” McKay said. “It’s something USC has had to live with for 40 years and will continue to live with.”
Then he said something that is relevant to the Clay Helton era.
“The average fan thinks we go only after the stars,” he said. “But there are some good players on poor teams that don’t get the notoriety of the stars. We’re interested in what they’ll be after they get here.”
- When USC baseball manager Rod Dedeaux approached his 900th career victory in 1970, he said, “I can remember every one of them. But I can remember even better every one of those 352 losses.
“We shouldn’t have lost those, but then Emmet Ashford (an American league umpire) must have blown half of them.”
“It is going to be a real personal milestone,” Dedeaux added. “But there is one thing I’ve got to ask . . . ‘Where the hell is that thousandth victory?’ ”
Dedeaux finished with 1,332 career victories when he retired in 1986.
- Last week, I mentioned USC basketball player Ken Flower was selected in 1953 to play for the College All-Stars in a 19-game tour against the Harlem Globetrotters.
Here’s more detail: On April 8, 1953, the Globetrotters played the collegiate All-Americans in front of 36,256 fans at the Coliseum, the largest crowd ever at that time to see a basketball game in the United States. The Globetrotters won, 77-72.