LOS ANGELES — It may never rain in Southern California, but it seems to be pouring on the Boston College basketball team right now.
Hoping to rebound from a hideous loss at Purdue Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Eagles traveled a long way to Tinseltown only to discover they are suddenly suffering from a crisis of confidence.
Certainly, Sunday night’s humbling 78-62 setback against Southern Cal before a small gathering of 3,853 at the Galen Center, USC’s on-campus arena, did little to bolster the Eagles’ sagging spirits. BC lost for the second time in as many games on this cross-country crucible to the West Coast, which included a layover in West Lafayette, Ind., where Purdue administered the Eagles an 88-67 smackdown before a boisterous crowd of 12,962 at Mackey Arena.
“The bottom line is that we have a group of kids who are not playing with confidence,’’ said BC coach Steve Donahue, whose Eagles fell to 3-6 on the season and must regroup before hosting Maryland in their ACC opener Thursday night at Conte Forum. “Even though they are trying hard, and hanging around, and they’re grinding it, when it comes down to winning a game, they need to feel good about themselves.
“We have a lot of guys who have been beat up by the schedule, our failures, and it’s affecting their confidence and it’s affecting our team confidence.’’
It appeared the four California-born players on BC’s roster, led by the 13-point contribution of junior forward Ryan Anderson of Lakewood, were going to carry the day for the Eagles, given it was the first time many of their friends and family got to see them play as collegians.
“It was an extra boost of motivation to have people in the stands who hadn’t seen you,’’ said 6-foot-2-inch sophomore guard Joe Rahon of San Diego, who had 11 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds to go along with one blocked shot and a sweet coast-to-coast contested layup with three seconds remaining before intermission that enabled BC to rally from a 4-point deficit to tie it at 32 apiece.
“But it was kind of disappointing for them not to see a better performance from us,’’ Rahon added.
KC Caudill chipped in 11 points to go along with five rebounds in 21 minutes of playing time, all career highs for the hulking 6-11 junior center from Brea. He was summoned early and often from the bench to help give BC a low-post presence against USC’s senior leviathans: Omar Oraby, a 7-2, 270-pound Egyptian, and reserve center D.J. Haley, a 7-foot, 250-pounder, who combined for 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
“It was great that I played well,’’ said Caudill, who was motivated to be playing in front of his parents, who hadn’t seen him in six months. “But it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get the W.’’
Sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, BC’s leading scorer (20.9 points), was held out of the starting lineup because of undisclosed disciplinary reasons, and wound up being held to a season-low 6 points on 2-for-5 shooting, all from beyond the 3-point arc.
“It was a very good team win,’’ said first-year USC coach Andy Enfield, who took Florida Gulf Coast University on a magical Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament last year. “The defense picked up in the second half. Boston College has three of the best scorers we’ve seen. For them to be below their averages was key to our win.’’
The Trojans (6-3) hit 46 percent of their shots (27 of 58), held the Eagles to 37 percent shooting (22 of 59 overall; 9 for 35 from 3-point range), and dominated the boards (44-27). They were led by the freshman triumvirate of Julian Jacobs (16 points, eight rebounds), Nikola Jovanovic (15 points, seven rebounds), and Roschon Prince (14 points, five rebounds).
“Whether we’re 3-6 or 6-3, we’re going to make or break our season based on what we do from here on out,’’ Donahue said. “What I have to do is get it back to where we were a month ago, and physically get us back to the way we were playing.
“I’m going to continue to preach to these guys how much I believe in them, but you want to see some growth, you want to see some results, and we’re going to work on it,’’ he added. “I know it’s there. It’s our job to make sure these kids are back to feeling good about themselves.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.