Vucevic leads USC to 65-42 win over Stanford
LOS ANGELES – Now that Southern California coach Kevin O’Neill is down to a seven-player rotation, he stressed the importance of rebounding and defense even more during practice this week.
Apparently, the players didn’t tune him out and the result was a convincing 65-42 win against Stanford on Thursday night.
USC held Stanford to just 22.2 percent shooting from the field – the Cardinal’s worst showing since the shot clock was introduced in the 1985-86 season.
“I couldn’t have asked for the guys to play harder, better or even more focused,” O’Neill said. “That’s probably the best job we’ve done of following the game plan in a long time.”
The 42 points was also a season-low for Stanford and the fewest points scored since Feb. 26, 2006 when the Cardinal beat Washington State, 39-37.
USC (11-8, 3-3 Pac-10), on the other hand, made 7 of 14 3-pointers and shot 56 percent from the field to regroup after getting swept on the road by Oregon and Oregon State.
The Trojans were left short-handed after freshman guard Bryce Jones announced he was transferring on Monday.
“We knew we would have to have a great effort defensively to win the game,” O’Neill said. “What I sensed is, we were the same team as we were when we were playing well.
“We practiced well, we weren’t discouraged by losing and we weren’t distracted by Bryce’s departure. I thought our guys just did their job.”
Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Trojans. Alex Stepheson added 10 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the year.
“They’re a big team on the inside,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Stepheson and Vucevic , they’re two of the bigger guys in the low post and they play well together.”
The Trojans used their size advantage to outrebound Stanford by eight and made it difficult for the Cardinal to score inside.
Anthony Brown had nine points for Stanford (10-7, 3-3), which scored only seven points in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
It was the first time no players scored in double digits since Dec. 16, 2006.
The Cardinal scored the first basket of the game when Josh Owens hit a turnaround jumper, but made just 2 of their first 14 shots to trail 16-5.
Stanford didn’t reach double digits until Brown hit a layup with 6:57 remaining in the half to make it 24-10.
Despite Jones’ departure, the Trojans didn’t appear fatigued while smothering Stanford inside and shutting down the Cardinal’s Jeremy Green, who came into the game averaging 15.5 points per game. Green made 2 of 9 shots to finish with five points.
USC forward Marcus Simmons did the brunt of the work in shutting down Green while guards Jio Fontan (12 points) and Donte Smith helped out when Simmons picked up some early fouls.
“When he guards like a secondary guy, it’s like he thinks he’s on vacation,” O’Neill said. “Whenever he guards a primary guy like Jeremy he really gets down and guards and does what he’s supposed to do.
“I thought he was outstanding.”
USC outrebounded Stanford by nine and shot 54 percent in the first half to lead 37-22.