There was no way Jeff Parris was going to play Trojan Horse against USC. The Trojans saw him coming.
USC also was relieved to see Parris spend so much time on the bench during a 99-90 victory over Cal State Northridge before 4,019 Tuesday night at the Sports Arena.
"He didn't play a lot [Tuesday night] and I was glad to see that," USC Coach Henry Bibby said. "It was a loss for them. We wanted to get him into foul trouble because we knew what he could do."
For Parris, a 6-foot-5 senior forward and the Matadors' most physical player, it was a familiar scene--sitting with four fouls in the second half and leaving the Matadors to make do against bigger bodies.
Parris collected his third and fourth fouls in the first 90 seconds of the second half and played sparingly thereafter. He finished with nine points and only two rebounds, playing only 16 minutes.
It was a stark contrast to the Parris who scored a career-high 27 points two weeks ago in the Matadors' upset of UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
But then, it is as plain as the whiskers on Parris' face that Northridge is a different team with its bearded leader.
"You can look at the games we've won and the game's we've lost and see what he means to us," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said. "It's going to be hard for us to win when he plays only 16 minutes."
Especially against teams the caliber of 12th-ranked USC. The Trojans (5-0) capitalized on Parris' absence, particularly in the second half when he sat for more than 13 minutes.
Numbers told the story. USC out-rebounded the Matadors, 43-27, and steadily took control of the offensive boards as the game progressed. The Trojans had 15 offensive rebounds to the Matadors' five.
"We have a lot of teams who hope I get into foul trouble," Parris said. "Obviously, I'm not doing my job very well on that."
Northridge (4-3), in losing its second game in a row, appeared flat beneath the boards.
"We missed a lot of box-outs," Braswell said. "They got too many offensive rebounds, too many second chances."
Center Brian Heinle had 18 points but only three rebounds. Guard Markus Carr also had three rebounds and guard Carl Holmes led Northridge with six.
"I feel bad because I had a few lapses on defense and that's what caused [Parris] to get a couple of fouls," Heinle said. "We gotta learn to play without him."
With Parris on the bench, USC took advantage. Heinle missed a short jumper from the baseline and Desmon Farmer beat two teammates for the rebound.
Moments later Sam Clancy of USC grabbed a second offensive rebound on the same possession that led to another basket.
Parris returned after his 13-minute hiatus with five minutes left and the Trojans leading, 86-84. His basket with 55 seconds to play pulled Northridge to within 96-90.
John Burrell scored 21 points for Northridge.
"I don't want to say that we can't win without him," Burrell said of Parris. "But it's hard. It's hard when he's on the bench and we still gotta play. There's definitely something missing."