The Stanford Cardinal, coming off a 69-65 defeat at the hands of the UCLA Bruins, were looking to salvage a home split on Saturday night as they faced the USC Trojans, a team that held them to just 22% from the field in a 65-42 loss in Los Angeles earlier this season. While Stanford did shoot better this time around, the Trojans still had too much firepower, defense, and help from the home team as USC defeated Stanford by a final score of 69-53. USC moves to 15-12 on the season, 7-7 in conference play, while Stanford falls to 13-13, 6-9 in the Pac-10.
"You have to find other ways to win," said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins after the game. "We have to get better."
Stanford was led by Josh Owens' 13 points and seven rebounds on 6-10 shooting. Josh Huestis contributed 11 points and five boards off the bench while Jeremy Green also had 11, but on 3-13 shooting. Dwight Powell led the team in rebounding with 10 boards, none on the offensive end. Nikola Vucevic led the Trojans victory with a double-double, scoring 19 points and snaring 14 rebounds on 6-10 field goals. Alex Stephenson was next with 15 on 6-9 shooting, followed by Donte Smith's 13.
After the contest, Marcus Simmons noted the job he did versus Green. Simmons said "I know he (Green) is one of the top scorers in the conference. It's my job to shut down opposing scorers, that's what I do to help my team win. I just wanted to make him work for everything, so I was a little physical with him…He was getting frustrated. I heard him telling his teammates to get him the ball - that's when I can tell he's getting frustrated."
With Stanford down 15, the Cardinal had several opportunities to knock the deficit down a few pegs, but the Trojans played tough defense each time down the floor and Jio Fontan drained a three-pointer from the right wing to extend the lead to 63-45 with 5:47 remaining in the game. Stanford continued to battle, but the war was already over, as the Cardinal got no closer than 14 down the stretch while making just 20% of their field goals (5-25) in the second stanza, including 0-11 from deep.
Stanford shot 33% from the field, including 18% (3-17) from beyond the arc and 63% (12-19) at the free throw line. USC countered with 53% shooting from the field (including 59% in the first half, 57% at the three-point line, and 50% (11-22) from the free throw line. The Cardinal outrebounded USC by a 37-32 margin, including 13-4 on the offensive glass, but were only able to equalize the Trojans' eight second chance points for the evening. Stanford tallied 10 assists and 11 turnovers, while USC passed out 12 assists and committed just nine miscues.
In the press room, Dawkins said that USC "gets after you defensively" and that they were "really, really quick." He continued by noting that his team again played "well in spurts" and they "started the game real well," but that their "quickness and penetration" hurt them down the stretch as they began to "wear down" his team.
Owens opened up the second half with a baseline hook over Stephenson to bring the lead down seven before the UNC transfer dunked off a nice feed to stop the bleeding for the visitors. The basket snapped USC out of their doldrums as they ran off the next ten points to eradicate the streak Stanford had put together to cut the Trojans advantage at the end of the first half. USC's lead grew to 56-37 after a layup by Smith with 13:10 remaining in the game, but four straight points by Stanford gave the home team a little momentum as the midway point of the second half approached.
Both teams came out hot from the field, making 10 of their first 16 shots before the first media timeout, leading to a 13-12 advantage for the Trojans just 5:06 into the contest. Unfortunately for Cardinal fans the Trojans continued to make their shots while the USC defense virtually shut down the home team offense, concluding a 22-4 run to go up 30-16 after a Jones three-pointer from the right corner with just under eight minutes to go in the first half. USC's lead would grow to as many as 18 late before a 9-0 run over the last 2:43 sliced the edge in half, sending the teams into the locker room with the Trojans leading 40-31.
USC head coach Kevin O'Neill after the game praised his up-and-coming defense by saying "We're good defensively, we're not great. We're getting better…In order for us to win, because we don't score very well, we have to be aggressive defensively, and I thought our guys really did a good job in trying to take them out of what they wanted to do," a fact not lost on folks who watched this game from start-to-finish
The Cardinal will again try to right the ship as the conference season winds down. Stanford heads out on the road to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Oregon schools, starting with the Beavers on Thursday evening. Game time is set for 6:00pm in Corvallis.
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