Scared and complacent are not the ideal ways to take on the nation's ninth-ranked team, and USC can certainly attest to that after it ran and tried to hide from Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Trojans walked onto the floor of the Sports Arena petrified by a Cincinnati team that was bigger, deeper and twice as talented, but instead of sticking out chests and trying for an upset, USC threw up its arms and lost, 100-81.
"It was not a good day," Trojan Coach Henry Bibby said. "We got beat in every category. We didn't come to play against one of the best teams in the country, so we got beat. We were scared."
Wide-eyed from the first sight of a Cincinnati pressure defense that forced eight turnovers on USC's first 13 possessions, the Trojans fumbled through the first half and were through at the intermission, behind, 50-24.
USC concentrated its defense on Cincinnati forward Danny Fortson but forgot about his teammates, particularly Ruben Patterson and Darnell Burton.
Fortson scored only nine points, 14 below his average, but Burton finished with 31 and Patterson a personal-best 27, 19 in the first half.
"It's like in football," Rodrick Rhodes said. "If you try to stop the run and they have good wide receivers they're going to pass and beat you.
"We tried to stop Fortson. We had to give something up, and Burton and Patterson killed us."
Burton did it mostly from three-point range, from which he was six of nine; and Patterson did it from everywhere--nine for 10 on free throws, two for two on three-point shots. In the first half, Cincinnati shot 64.3%; USC (9-7) slightly less than 40%.
"We looked at last year's tape and saw the USC never got into its offense when we pressed them," Bearcat Coach Bob Huggins said. "It took them out of what they wanted to do."
The Trojans will accomplish little when they get the performances they did from seniors Stais Boseman and David Crouse. Boseman scored four points in 23 minutes and for his effort got a 15-minute, closed-door meeting with Bibby after the game.
Neither would comment on what was discussed, but Crouse probably heard the same. He played only six minutes and did not score.
"We've not had enough consistent play by guys who we expect to be consistent," Bibby said. "When they're all consistent we can compete against the good schools. Everybody has to be clicking for us to go.
"Where was David Crouse today? Where was Stais Boseman?"
Neither Crouse nor Boseman would answer. Crouse rushed out of the locker room and Boseman refused comment.
"Against UCLA [on Thursday] we came out really excited and we didn't start well," said USC's Elias Ayuso, who scored 17 points. "Tonight we tried to stay relaxed [before the game] and maybe we came out too relaxed."
But Rhodes, who had 15 points and six assists, said it had nothing to do with the team's approach.
"They are just a good team. That's it," he said. "It's simple, no hard mathematics. They're just solid all-around."
The Bearcats (14-3) drilled USC's defense quickly at the start and then methodically ran their lead to 12 points with 6:57 to play. USC was outscored 18-5 in the half's final five minutes.
"This game was lost in the first half," Bibby said. "It was not a matter of being flat after the UCLA game. It was not a letdown. We had three days to recover and we should be able to bounce back."
Ayuso and Jaha Wilson seemed the only players not awe-struck. Wilson finished with 22 points and was the only player in a USC uniform worth watching in the first half. He had 13 of USC's 24 first-half points and nearly half the team's rebounds.
"Jaha played his heart out," Bibby said.