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Freshman Forward Impresses

November 21, 2005|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

When USC Coach Tim Floyd made a substitution early in the second half Sunday afternoon in the Sports Arena, RouSean Cromwell assumed he was being pulled and trotted toward the Trojan bench.

It seemed a safe guess for the freshman forward, who had exhibited tremendous effort but looked lost at times during the Trojans' two exhibition games. But when Floyd motioned for the 6-foot-10, 215-pounder to stay on the floor, he clearly made the right decision.

Cromwell finished with 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds in 35 minutes off the bench and was one of the few pleasant surprises for the Trojans during a season-opening 81-76 overtime loss to Cal State Northridge.

"We signed him as a potential guy that we thought could get better and better, and I thought he played very well," Floyd said.

Cromwell scored 12 points in the second half and seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed. With USC trailing by two points in the closing seconds of regulation, guard Gabe Pruitt found Cromwell underneath for a dunk that tied the score at 70-70 and sent the game into overtime.

"I saw Gabe driving to the hole and I was like, if anything I'm going to get this rebound because I thought Gabe was going to shoot it," Cromwell said. "Then my man jumped to him and I just went up as powerful as I could no matter what was in front of me."

Cromwell received more playing time than expected because starting center Abdoulaye N'diaye picked up three fouls in the first half and played only 10 minutes. Floyd declined to say whether Cromwell would supplant N'diaye in the starting lineup, but it seemed clear that Cromwell had made a favorable first impression.

"I knew he could do that," Pruitt said. "But I have a lot of confidence in this team that I can give anybody the ball at any time."


Pruitt said the Trojans' trip to Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout might be coming at the right time after a devastating early defeat. USC leaves campus today and plays Oral Roberts in the first round Wednesday.

"It gives us a chance to focus and get away from here because there's going to be a lot of guys talking," Pruitt said. "We're going to have that target of 'last place' on our back, and this [loss] adds more to it. I think going to Alaska gives us a chance to start over. We'll be fine."

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