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USC falls to Virginia Commonwealth, 59-46

Foul trouble and poor shooting are the primary culprits behind the Trojans' hurried exit from the NCAA tournament.

March 16, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC's Jio Fontan, center, drives past Virginia Commonwealth's D.J. Haley during the first half of Wednesday's game.
USC's Jio Fontan, center, drives past Virginia Commonwealth's… (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images )

Reporting from Dayton, Ohio — — USC's thin lineup was thinned out Wednesday night here, as the Trojans lost player after player late in their first-round NCAA tournament game against Virginia Commonwealth.

Making a comeback without bodies seemed impossible, and the Trojans indeed could not, falling to the Rams, 59-46.

VCU (24-11) earns the No. 11 seed in the Southwest Regional and will advance to play Georgetown (21-10) at 6 p.m. PDT Friday at the United Center in Chicago.

Photos: USC vs. Virginia Commonwealth

USC's 2010-11 season ends with a record of 19 wins and 15 losses in the first game back for USC Coach Kevin O'Neill after he was suspended one game last week for an altercation.

Things started to look bad for USC late in the game when USC had three players on the floor with four fouls. Then, USC senior guard Marcus Simmons fouled out with 4:10 left, scoring seven points on three-for-five shooting in his final game at USC. And junior guard Jio Fontan fouled out not long after, with 3:54, having scored 14 points in six for 12 shooting.

With 1:58 left, Maurice Jones made a layup to make it 55-46, VCU, but there wasn't much else the Trojans could do. VCU made just three three-point shots in the first half, but made six in the second.

VCU shot 20 for 59 (33.9%) from the floor; USC shot 15 for 38 (39.5%). USC missed eight of its nine attempts from three-point range; VCU made nine of its 24 attempts from deep.

USC was able VCU's lead to one with 7:51 left, but the Rams responded with a 7-0 run to go back up, 51-43.

2011 NCAA men's basketball championship brackets

The Trojans struggled at the free-throw line, missing six of 10 down at one point. For the game, USC shot 15 for 25 from the free-throw line.

Another low point for USC was the shooting of senior guard Donte Smith, who missed all six of his three-point attempts and finished with just one point. Yet another low point for the Trojans was its turnovers. USC had 15 of them that led to 19 points off turnovers for VCU. The Rams, meanwhile, had nine turnovers that led to eight points off turnovers for USC.

And yet another low point for USC was second-chance points. VCU had 21 of those while USC had only eight.

Junior forward Nikola Vucevic finished with 11 points on three-for-five shooting and 14 rebounds, his 22nd double-double of the season, in what may be his last game at USC. He may go pro after the season.

Vucevic fouled out with 29 seconds to play.

USC senior forward Alex Stepheson scored four points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

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USC trails Virginia Commonwealth, 42-36 with a little under 10 minutes left, and the Trojans can attribute that deficit to its sluggish start and to the second half.

Senior forward Alex Stepheson turned the ball over on the Trojans' first play and then junior guard Jio Fontan picked up his second foul on a reach.

On the other end, VCU senior forward Jamie Skeen knocked down a three-point jumper from the left wing to give the Rams a 25-22 lead with 19:22 left. Things started going downhill for USC from there.

Trojans senior guard Marcus Simmons picked up his third foul with 16:01 in the second half, sending him to the bench.

And not long after that, VCU guard Joey Rodriguez hit a three-point shot from the left wing to give the Rams their largest lead of the night to that point, 28-24, with 15:45 left.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill called a timeout after that. He needed one. The Trojans offense looked terrible, having missed four of its first five shots after halftime. But his timeout didn't help. Things kept getting worse for USC. Freshman guard Maurice Jones hit a three-point jumper with 15:11 left to make it 28-27, VCU, but Rodriguez made a three-point shot on VCU's next possession to boost its lead back to four.

Jones then turned it over when he drove deep in the lane and passed it back outside after he had already jumped. Rodriguez stole the ball and then fed it to VCU senior guard Brandon Rozzell, who made a three-point shot from the left wing with 14:31 left.

O'Neill called another timeout, his team trailing, 34-27, with 14:25 left.

Out of the timeout, USC tried to get the ball to junior forward Nikola Vucevic, but he has been neutralized all night by double-teams, and he was again on that possession.

USC has some serious issues with foul trouble. Simmons picked up his fourth foul with 13:19 left eight seconds after checking back into the game. Stepheson has three, as does Vucevic.

Simmons left after picking up his fourth foul. Not sure when we'll see him again. Meanwhile, the Trojans' offense hadn't scored since Jones' three-point jumper. And three more points from VCU capped a 9-0 run that put the Rams ahead 37-27 with 12:48 left.

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USC finally got a basket with 12:23 left, ending a nearly three-minute drought, when Fontan made a layup.

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