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Thumb injury won't keep USC's Jio Fontan out of Pac-12 opener

Point guard suffered a sprain in last game, but Coach Kevin O'Neill says Fontan will play against Stanford on Thursday night.

January 02, 2013|By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
  • Jio Fontan, right, dives for a loose ball during a game against San Diego State.
Jio Fontan, right, dives for a loose ball during a game against San Diego… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)

USC men's basketball Coach Kevin O'Neill said X-rays showed that point guard Jio Fontan sprained his left thumb in the first half of USC's 63-61 overtime win over Dayton on Sunday and that Fontan will play in the Trojans' Pac-12 Conference opener against Stanford on Thursday with the thumb taped.

"He practiced," O'Neill said Wednesday. "He'll be fine. He's doing great."

O'Neill also was full of praise for fifth-year senior forward Aaron Fuller, who played two seasons at Iowa before transferring to USC. He's in his second season under O'Neill and against Dayton on Sunday had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double as a Trojan.

"He's doing a great job," O'Neill said of Fuller, who is averaging only 3.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

Fuller started only his second game of the season against Dayton. O'Neill said Fuller will start against Stanford.

"While we're searching for the right mixture, Aaron has solidified our defense. He's stepped up," O'Neill said.

"He plays with great energy. Defensively he's really good. He plays hard. He plays his tail off and always tries to make the right plays for his teammates. We need that."

Technically speaking

O'Neill said that if Eric Wise, also a fifth-year senior and the team's leading scorer (11.4), were to ever get two technical fouls in the same game again, "He won't be playing for us any longer."

Wise got his first technical as part of a double technical with Dayton's Devin Oliver when the two fought over a rebound. The second came as a surprise, at least according to Fontan, who said Wise was just spewing angry words directed at no one in particular.

By the numbers

According to the Ratings Percentage Index, a combination of numbers that often plays prominently in determining NCAA tournament selections, USC is No. 160 among Division I teams — but its strength of schedule is 29th.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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