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Trojans get straight to the point

They focus more on Augustin at guard than on the touted Durant to disrupt Texas' offense.

March 19, 2007|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

SPOKANE, WASH. — The last few days, USC players and coaches answered question after question about Texas super-freshman Kevin Durant.

How did they plan to guard one of the biggest stars in college basketball? Would they go tall or small? Single or double team?

As it turned out, the Trojans were quietly focused on another player. The best way to upset the Longhorns, they figured, was to harass point guard D.J. Augustin.

The plan worked perfectly on Sunday as USC rolled to an 87-68 victory in an East Regional second-round game at Spokane Arena.

Although Durant scored 30 points, Augustin had six points and six turnovers, failing to get the rest of the offense rolling.

That was a key to victory, Coach Tim Floyd said, explaining, "We felt like he was the guy that dominated the ball."

Over the weekend, assistant Phil Johnson had watched film of the Longhorns against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. He liked what he saw.

For USC, the defensive onus would fall upon guard Gabe Pruitt.

Sometimes, Pruitt said, "I had to pick Augustin up early, not let him get a full head of steam." Other times, he hung back to help double-team Texas' favorite weapon, the screen and roll.

Pruitt also had to stay between his man and the basket.

"D.J.'s special at getting into the lane and throwing his body into you and drawing the foul," Floyd said.

The shifting tactics stymied Augustin.

"My shot wasn't really falling," he said. "It was hard for me to get in the lane and drive and create for my teammates."

As for Durant, USC covered the 6-foot-9 forward with guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis. The small lineup made for a quicker defensive transition and double teams.

Durant got help from guard A.J. Abrams, who scored 20 points, but no one else.

"You're not going to get it done this time of year with just two guys," Coach Rick Barnes said.

Pruitt could sense the Longhorns growing frustrated.

"Augustin being the point guard, he's the head of the team," Pruitt said. "By taking him out and forcing someone else to run the offense, that kind of rattled their cage."

david.wharton@latimes.com

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