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USC gets very defensive in 65-42 rout of Stanford

The Trojans limit the Cardinal to 22.2% shooting and win in their first game since freshman guard Bryce Jones announced his intentions to transfer.

January 20, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC forward Nikola Vucevic prepares to shoot over Stanford forward Dwight Powell in the second half Thursday night at the Galen Center.
USC forward Nikola Vucevic prepares to shoot over Stanford forward Dwight… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

One day after returning from an embarrassing sweep in Oregon, where USC failed to play the defense it knows it must to win, its talented freshman shooting guard announced he was leaving the program.

The Trojans held a team meeting that day, a Monday, when Bryce Jones said his playing time wasn't enough. And the players moved on.

"He was a good guy, he left, that's what he wanted to do," junior forward Nikola Vucevic said. "We have to keep playing."

And get back to playing defense, or, as USC Coach Kevin O'Neill often says, "The only way we can win."

After a few days of intense practice, the Trojans did what O'Neill called "the best job we've done of following a game plan in a long time," and beat Stanford, 65-42, Thursday night at the Galen Center.

USC, 11-8 overall and 3-3 in Pacific 10 Conference play, and Stanford (10-7, 3-3) split their last 10 meetings entering Thursday, with their all-time series locked at 118 games apiece, with one USC win vacated in 2008 because of sanctions.

But this matchup was close only at tipoff.

The start was the opposite of USC's recent losses at Oregon and Oregon State, in which it trailed by double digits before failed comebacks became single-digit losses.

USC crushed Stanford in the first 20 minutes, leading by 20 at one point before halftime and then not letting up in the second half. USC led by 34 with 2:08 left.

The Trojans shot 55.6% (25 of 45) while Stanford laid brick after brick, missing 49 of 63 shots for the lowest field-goal percentage (22.2%) for a USC opponent since 1998.

Stanford entered as the hotter defensive squad, holding teams to a Pac-10 low 59.8 points a game.

But USC showed the Cardinal how it's done.

"We needed a game to bounce back," said Vucevic, who scored a game-high 20 points.

Stanford junior guard Jeremy Green's worst scoring performances in Pac-10 play had been against USC, and the trend continued, as he scored five points, missing seven of nine shots.

Jones' absence was "weird," as senior guard Donte Smith put it, but without the former Woodland Hills Taft High star, who was rated as USC's top recruit in its 2010 class, the Trojans were left with a seven-man rotation.

It worked well in its first game, as all seven players scored and even the walk-ons saw playing time.

Junior guard Jio Fontan had 12 points and senior forward Alex Stepheson had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Freshman forward Garrett Jackson replaced Jones in the rotation and scored six points in 11 minutes.

"I'm ready for it," Jackson said of his new role.

USC filled Jones' shoes for next season quickly, gaining a commitment Thursday morning from junior college guard Greg Allen from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.

USC's coaches offered Allen two weeks ago, likely knowing Jones wouldn't last. But Allen said the timing of his commitment was a coincidence.

"That wasn't even a part of it," Allen said by phone. "I just want an opportunity, but that shows that there's an even greater opportunity now."

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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