The USC men’s basketball team is struggling. The USC men’s volleyball team is not.Yes, the top-ranked men’s volleyball team lost its first game of what was a perfect season over the weekend, a five-set heartbreaker to Pepperdine. But the mild setback didn’t shake the college volleyball world.The Trojans are still the No. 1 team in the land.The USC men’s basketball team had an equally disappointing and even more costly weekend. USC coach Kevin O’Neill’s boys split two home games, sputtering out badly Saturday in an ugly loss to Oregon. The Trojans were already a long shot to make the Big Dance. Now, they’d be lucky to make the National Invitational Tournament.When you look at the two programs, it’s like looking at two houses in disparate conditions. One, nearly pristine, has been meticulously improved year after year and is the envy of the neighborhood.The other house was bought after a foreclosure. Although it’s not rundown, the roof is leaking. And as soon as you plug one hole, another keeps popping up.I don’t think I have to tell you which house represents which program.The two teams are on different tracks. The volleyball team is headed straight to the top, national championship or bust. The basketball team is just trying to move in a positive direction, to finish out an up-and-down season on a high note.Volleyball and basketball aren’t so different after all. Both are games made up of runs. Both rely on a certain rhythm and flow. Spacing is crucial, teamwork essential. Point is, a lesson from one is easily transferable to the other.So what cues can the men’s basketball team take from the success of senior opposite hitter Murphy Troy and the men’s volleyball team? If there’s one word, it’s consistency.I was the volleyball beat writer two years ago. After moving on to other sports, I popped my head into volleyball practice last week, and it was as if I were in a time warp.Very little had changed. The atmosphere was more intense, but the faces were practically the same.Troy is still the power hitter on the outside. Senior setter Riley McKibbin still quarterbacks the offense. Senior middle blocker Austin Zahn is still a presence at the net. Senior outside Tri Bourne is still making teams pay when they forget about him on the other side.Those four seniors form the core of the team that has been steadily building since 2007. They were USC coach Bill Ferguson’s golden recruiting class and they are living up to expectations. They came in together as freshmen and the only direction to go was up. They were a few points away from winning the national title in 2009 and still have one last crack at it.Compare that with O’Neill’s basketball squad. A very capable coach, O’Neill came in two years ago after Tim Floyd’s abrupt resignation and an exodus of recruits that would have impressed Moses. The program was nearing disarray, and O’Neill helped to stabilize it.But consistency continues to elude the Trojans on the basketball court. They have nothing that approaches the consistency of the volleyball team.Junior forward Nikola Vucevic is really the only player remaining who had any impact in the Tim Floyd days. Senior forward Alex Stepheson had to sit out that year because he transferred in and senior guard Donte Smith had not discovered his jump shot yet.Meanwhile, new players like freshmen guard Maurice Jones and forward Garrett Jackson were thrown into the mix early and are still struggling to find their way.So the basketball team takes two steps backward as soon as it takes one step forward, while the volleyball team steadily climbs.Players on both teams work equally hard. Both coaching staffs are just as dedicated. But Ferguson’s starters are four seniors and two juniors, all of whom have been at USC their entire college careers, learning the offense, buying into the system.Meanwhile, O’Neill must go with what he has, which is a group of guys who, with the exception of a few, haven’t logged a whole lot of games together.Any rebuilding program struggles with these issues. This is part of the process. Progress is often slow. Fans get impatient and players get frustrated.The only way to have lasting success is to stay the course. It is a valuable lesson the basketball team would be wise to heed.“Middle Ground” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Josh at [email protected]
FRAGILE DEFENSE United’s fragile defense, though, nearly contrived to throw away the chance of glory. Although Jesse Lingard extended United’s lead in the 38th minute, Southampton fought back with goals either side of half-time from Manolo Gabbiadini. But as Southampton pushed for its first major trophy since beating United in the 1976 FA Cup trophy, Ibrahimovic produced the bullet header in the 87th minute from Ander Herrera’s cross. Now Ibrahimovic has won a major trophy in a fifth country after honours in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Although Wayne Rooney went up to collect the trophy as captain, that was his only role at Wembley. The 31-year-old forward was forced to watch from the bench as his older teammate produced an ageless, match-winning contribution. “This is what I came for. I came to win, and I am winning,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have to keep going because the more I win, the more satisfied I get.” The striker didn’t cost United any transfer fee when he joined in the summer transfer window as a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain. He sought another final challenge, even in the twilight of his career, rather than an easy payday in an inferior league. “You appreciate winning more the older you get. It’s all about winning and collecting trophies,” he said. “This is my 32nd trophy. Wherever I have been, I have won.” LONDON, England (AP): Zlatan Ibrahimovic powered in a late header to win the English League Cup for Manchester United on Sunday, sealing a 3-2 victory over Southampton after a two-goal lead was thrown away by Jose Mourinho’s side. It was Ibrahimovic’s second goal in the final after putting United ahead from a free kick, taking the 35-year-old Swede’s tally to 26 goals in an incredible first season at United, where his performances have more than lived up to the swagger. That bravado was flaunted on the Wembley Stadium pitch amid the celebrations. Asked by a television reporter if something special was unfolding at United, Ibrahimovic replied: “I came. That’s special.” The free summer transfer window recruit ensured Mourinho became the first manager in United’s history to win a trophy in his first season, adding to his three League Cup triumphs with Chelsea. “(It) is quite a sense of relief,” Mourinho said.
Corporate officials said New Century had agreed to sell its loan-servicing business to Carrington Capital Management LLC and its affiliate for about $139 million, subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court. CIT Group and Greenwich Capital Financial Products Inc. have agreed to provide up to $150 million in working capital to facilitate the reorganization process, officials said. New Century has also agreed to sell some loans and residual interest in some trusts to Greenwich Capital for $50 million. New Century, based in Irvine, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The move had been expected for several weeks.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The company made the move after exploring a variety of possible ways to stay in business, he said. New Century was the latest subprime lender to fall on hard times amid a spike in mortgage defaults caused by borrowers unable to make payments. More than two dozen subprime lenders have shut down in recent months, and others are scrambling to stay in business. Subprime loans target borrowers with low credit scores. The mortgages carry relatively high interest rates but can also offer low initial payments. “New Century’s failure raises the very real risk that the problems facing the subprime sector will spread into the broader mortgage market,” said Octavio Marenzi, CEO of Celent, a Boston-based financial research and consulting firm. “Relatively lax lending standards were by no means limited to subprime lenders, and problems could easily spread to the broader banking sector,” he said. New Century Financial Corp., once the nation’s second-largest provider of home loans to high-risk borrowers, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, the victim of its own financial missteps as well as pressures felt by its rival lenders. New Century immediately fired 3,200 workers – more than half its work force – and said it intends to sell off its major assets. “The Chapter 11 process provides the best means for selling our servicing and loan-origination operations to financially sound parties,” Brad A. Morrice, president and chief executive, said in a written statement. “It is our hope that potential buyers will be in a stronger position than we are to employ many of our associates on an ongoing basis,” he said.