USC finds magic at Galen, too

first_imgThe players paid tribute back to the fans for the electric atmosphere that built throughout the season and reached a crescendo Saturday. Then the players lifted senior walk-on Chris Penrose – who hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds Saturday – onto their shoulders and carried him off the court. USC’s 84-66 victory over California in its final home game showed how much has changed within the program this season – the attitude, attendance and atmosphere. “We said from day one, we’re not going to beg our people to come out,” coach Tim Floyd said after his team played in front of a Galen Center-record sellout crowd of 10,027. “You have to earn those things.” USC has done that with a team that has exceeded all expectations. Senior Lodrick Stewart led the USC student section in displaying the university’s trademark victory sign as the school’s fight song played. Teammates surrounded Stewart, some going into the aisles, as the crowd paid tribute to one of the Trojans’ best seasons since the Pacific-10 Conference expanded to 10 teams in 1979. • Photo Gallery: 02/24: USC vs. Cal LOS ANGELES – Galen Center’s inaugural season could not have had a better ending. center_img The Trojans (21-8, 11-5) are guaranteed at least fourth place in the conference, will finish second if they win both games in Washington this week and can wrap up third place with any victory or a Stanford loss in its final two regular-season games. All this for a team that entered the season picked to finish sixth in the conference and that had starting freshmen at point guard and power forward. “We’re playing for seeding now,” Stewart said. “There’s not a doubt we’re going to the tournament. I think we’re going now, and the coaches feel the same way.” USC’s 15-3 record at Galen Center is its best home mark since going 16-3 in 1961. The Trojans’ three seniors – Stewart, Penrose and center Abdoulaye N’diaye – received framed jerseys before their final home game. Stewart hit four 3-pointers to give him 220 for his career and break the school record of 218 held by Brandon Granville (1999-02). His record-breaking shot came at an opportune time, as Cal had drawn within five points with a little more than 13 minutes remaining. “It’s great to get the record on a day like this,” said Stewart, who left the game to a large ovation with 55.8 seconds remaining. “It was so sad knowing it’s my last time playing here.” Stewart finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Taj Gibson led the Trojans with 18 points. But the basket that drew the biggest crowd reaction of the season came from Penrose, who hit a shot from the right corner with 5.3 seconds to go. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more