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Trojans Make Time to Defeat San Diego

November 22, 2000|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

So that's why USC has never played San Diego before.

Who knew the Toreros had the defensive gifts of Stanford?

Last season the Cardinal held USC to eight field goals in the first half of a game at the Sports Arena--the same number USC had against the visitors Tuesday.

Fortunately for the 20th-ranked Trojans, San Diego wasn't able to keep up the Cardinal impersonation in the second half, allowing USC to escape with a 78-67 victory before 2,280.

How ugly was it?

* USC missed its first nine shots and had one field goal after nearly 10 minutes.

* Less than three minutes into the game, Coach Henry Bibby replaced starters David Bluthenthal, Sam Clancy, Brian Scalabrine, Desmon Farmer and Brandon Granville with Robert Hutchinson, Tyler Murphy, Kostas Charissis, Jarvis Turner and Luke Minor.

* Scalabrine fouled out midway through the second half without scoring a point.

* For a third of the first half, Turner was the Trojans' leading scorer with six. Clancy wound up with 22 to lead all scorers.

Had San Diego (1-1) cut down on its 23 turnovers, and made a few more free throws (14 of 27) at crucial times, it might have left the arena as happy as Northridge left Pauley Pavilion.

"We let a big opportunity slip away tonight," Torero Coach Brad Holland said. "We played well in the first half, but panicked a little in the second half when USC did a good job of extending our offense. But we learned tonight we can play with a good team."

Bibby would beg to differ. He doesn't consider the Trojans (2-0) to be in the same vicinity with the word good.

"We're a long way from being a top 25 team," Bibby said. "I'm at a loss for words. We looked tired and sluggish, and we haven't practiced that hard because of some of the injuries we've had.

"San Diego outplayed us. They outhustled us. Brad had a very effective game plan and they executed it well.

Because USC struggled on offense (shooting 44.2%), the Trojans had the opportunity to find out if they could play defense. And Bibby had to find a lineup that worked.

If the first half San Diego did a terrific job frustrating the Trojans' entry passes to Scalabrine and Clancy, and then bumping them around the lane if the ball got through. An obviously irritated Scalabrine finished the first half with three fouls. Clancy scored 10 points but struggled (four-of-nine shooting) to find a rhythm.

Despite shooting 50% in the first half, the Toreros could not deliver a knockout blow. And Bibby did find a unit--Hutchinson, Clancy, Bluthenthal, Granville and Farmer--that began to click.

"I'm not sure what happened. I just know we weren't executing," Bluthenthal said. "We would settle for outside jump shots and kept missing.

"But in the second half we told ourselves we were not going to lose this game."

When Clancy put back his miss with 2:59 left in the first half, USC had closed to 24-21. A Farmer three-pointer at 1:35 tied the game at 26. San Diego still led at the half, 32-28, but the Trojans, after missing 20 of 28 shots, regained their equilibrium.

Farmer opened the second half with a three-pointer to draw the Trojans to 32-31. A 16-footer from the baseline by Clancy evened the score at 37. A three-pointer by Clancy at 14:50 gave USC its first lead, 40-39.

The Trojans spent the rest of the game trying to find someone besides Clancy who could make a basket. Granville did finish with 18 points, but nine came at the free throw line.

Bluthenthal, who had 10 points, made his first four free throws to stretch his consecutive streak to 41 in a row, setting a school and Pacific 10 Conference record. The streak ended at the 7:57 mark of the second half.

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