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USC's Maurice Jones seeks to make impact sooner

Trojans guard has been a presence on offense in the second half of games, but Coach Kevin O'Neill plans to help him assert himself earlier.

November 16, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC guard Maurice Jones claims he never gets tired, but his slow starts are an area of concern for Coach Kevin O'Neill.
USC guard Maurice Jones claims he never gets tired, but his slow starts are… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

In USC's season opener, Maurice Jones scored half of his 16 points in the final four minutes.

In its second game, the Trojans' sophomore guard scored all but two of his 18 points after halftime.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill is happy "MoJo" is taking over games on the offensive end. But he'd be happier if Jones didn't wait so late to do it.

"He's got to be more aggressive early in games," O'Neill said.

USC (1-1) plays its first road game of the season Thursday at San Diego State (3-1), and O'Neill is planning a couple moves to aid Jones.

The first is more in-game rest, an idea that scraps O'Neill's preseason promise to play the 5-foot-7 Jones a full 40 minutes every game.

Instead, Jones, who never says he's tired, will be taken out before timeouts and rest a bit after them so he can enjoy a prolonged breather.

The second plan is to have freshman Alexis Moore share at least some point guard duties, and Jones said he likes that because it should vary the offense and not allow defenses to just focus on him.

Jones admits his mind-set early in games needs to change as well. "I come out too chill, too relaxed, or trying to do too much," he said, "and I just need to pick my spots in the first half."

Ready for action Jackson

Garrett Jackson said he gained about 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season, bulking up to 230 and improving all aspects of his game.

But the sophomore forward — one of just two USC players who scored last season; he averaged 3.2 points and Jones averaged 9.9 — has played sparingly. He saw only 11 minutes of action in USC's first game, 10 in the second, and has just two points.

"He's been beaten out by some other guys," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said he's not yet comfortable with Jackson as a perimeter player, so that leaves Jackson fighting for minutes on USC's front line with Dewayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller and James Blasczyk.

And he's not likely to wrest minutes from them unless they get in serious foul trouble.

Still, Jackson said he's not upset with his position.

"I'm confident in KO and the staff that they know when and where to put me in and that they know where my strengths and weaknesses are," Jackson said. "I've just got to stay ready and the minutes will come if I do what I'm supposed to do."

Plan of (no) attack

On Monday against Nebraska, USC used a 15-4 run to take a four-point lead with 2 minutes 42 seconds left in regulation. But from that point on, USC slowed its aggressive offensive attack and tried to run time off the clock.

Some observers dubbed it a "prevent offense" and said it affected momentum as the Trojans lost in double overtime. O'Neill disagreed.

"I thought, 'We are playing against a veteran team, let's shorten the game here a little bit at the end and see if we can win this thing by four or by six,'" he said.

Would he do it differently? He said in hindsight he wished USC had gone inside to Fuller more, but, that aside, he thought the offense was fine.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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