TO HEAR USC coach Tim Floyd tell it, the Trojans' only issue right now is Cal, the team they face Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.

That may be true, but it certainly doesn't paint the full landscape of what the Trojans have been through since beating Cal 73-62 in Los Angeles on Jan. 31.

USC emerged from that victory at 15-6 overall and in the thick of the Pac-10 race at 6-3. The Trojans have dropped four of five since and arrive in Berkeley fighting for their postseason lives at 16-10, 7-7 in the conference.

They also have become something of a soap opera, with a series of incidents that have overshadowed the X's and O's.

  • Two Sundays ago in Tempe, USC trailed Arizona State 57-51 with less than a minute left when guard Daniel Hackett — remember that name — drove toward the basket and collided with Jamelle McMillan. The initial call by referee Randy McCall appeared to be a block. David Hall overruled him, whistling a charge against Hackett. Floyd raced onto the court and jawed at both referees, earning two technical fouls and an escort off the floor.

    "I thought he was going to punch the ref," ASU's Jeff Pendergraph told the Los Angeles Times. "He went crazy."

    Derek Glasser made three free throws for ASU, and the Sun Devils eventually claimed a 65-53 victory.


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  • Last weekend came word that ESPN was airing an "Outside the Lines" story about "package deals" in recruiting that included a segment on Hackett, a junior point guard, and his father, Rudy, a former pro basketball player who works as USC's strength and conditioning manager.

    Because Rudy Hackett, hired a year before his son came to USC, is an employee of the university, Daniel receives free tuition and does not count against the Trojans' basketball scholarship limit of 13.

    Floyd pointed out that the arrangement was cleared three years ago by the school, the Pac-10 and the NCAA.

    "We have not done one thing wrong," he said.

    If anything, the fault lies with the NCAA, whose rule seems ripe for exploitation. USC simply took advantage of a legal loophole.

    Though the hubbub was a brief irritant, it drew reaction from Daniel and Rudy Hackett.

  • Daniel Hackett was back in the news Saturday, with the Los Angeles Daily News reporting he and teammate Dwight Lewis had an argument and shoving match on the court 20 minutes after the Trojans' home loss to Washington.

    Floyd met Monday with both players, who later tried to downplay the incident. "It was very immature," Hackett told the Los Angeles Times. "Emotion took over a little bit. The frustration took over a little bit. We exchanged a couple words."

    Floyd called the episode "disappointing" but said the Trojans are moving on.

    "The biggest concern is playing Cal," he said.

    We'll find out Thursday if the Trojans have been able to put everything else in the rearview mirror.

    CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARDS: Seniors John Bryant of Santa Clara and Diamon Simpson of Saint Mary's have cracked the Bay Area's all-time top 10 for career rebounds. Bryant, formerly of Pinole Valley High, is eighth with 1,053 rebounds, and Simpson, the Hayward High grad, is 10th at 1,035.

    Bryant, averaging 13.7 rebounds per game in 2008-09, needs two more to become just the eighth player in Bay Area history — and the first in 39 seasons — to grab 400 rebounds in a season. With 12 more, he'll crack Dennis Awtrey's school record of 409, set in 1970.

    PASSING RAMBIS: Guard Kevin Foster broke Santa Clara's 32-year-old freshman scoring record last weekend, passing Kurt Rambis, who went on to play in the NBA and earlier this season had his uniform number retired by the Broncos.

    Foster has scored 418 points, eclipsing the total of 414 set by Rambis, who still owns the Broncos' career mark of 1,736 points.

    The Bay Area freshman best among the six Division I teams is held by Cal's Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who scored 590 points in 1995-96.

    Contact Jeff Faraudo at jeffscribe@aol.com.