Longhorns Routed by USC

Nikola Vucevic poured in a career-high 24 points as USC blitzed a low-energy Texas squad 73-56 in the final game of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series Sunday night.

USC (5-4) took an early lead, racing ahead 20-11 at the 10-minute mark after consecutive buckets by Alex Stepheson. But the Longhorns (6-2) quickly closed to within four. Jai Lucas canned a three, and following a Vucevic bucket, J'Covan Brown completed a four-point play, making the score 22-18. But then USC hit three three-pointers, including two from Vucevic to open up their biggest lead of the half at 11. The Longhorns whittled that lead back down to eight at 35-27 at halftime.

The Trojans' lead was largely thanks to Vucevic, who tied his season average with 16 points in the first half.

That momentum carried on through the start of the second half, as the Trojans started on a 9-0 run, punctuated by a Bryce Jones dunk. Matt Hill broke up the run with a free throw, but USC quickly added another dunk, this one by Stepheson, and a Stepheson jumper to take the game's biggest advantage at 20 points, 48-28.

Still, the game was somewhat in doubt, as the Trojans had given up a 20-point lead in a loss to Nebraska earlier in the season. The Longhorns certainly made an effort to do the same, going on an 11-3 run of their own. That run was highlighted by a pair of three-point plays by Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph, then culminated in a Hamilton three-pointer with 11:35 left, cutting the lead to 10.

But Texas struggled to get any closer, again coming to within 10 on a pair of Brown free throws with 5:44 remaining, a Johnson lay-in with 4:23 left and two Johnson free throws with 3:43 left. But they couldn't cut the lead to single digits until a Hamilton free throw with 2:21 left, making the score 63-54.

The Longhorns never came any closer as the Trojans hit 10-12 free throws down the stretch.

The two teams separated in a second half where USC shot 55.6 percent (10-18) from the field, compared to just 25 percent (8-32) for Texas.

Vucevic led all scorers with 24 and added nine rebounds, but he was just one of four Trojans who scored in double figures. Stepheson scored 14 and led the team with 11 boards. Maurice Jones scored 12 points, and was 8-9 from the free throw line, including six straight in the waning minutes. He had six assists, as well. Marcus Simmons scored 11 and hounded Hamilton all game defensively.

The Longhorns were paced with 17 from Brown and 12 from Hamilton, though the duo shot a combined 9-28 to get those points, including 3-11 beyond the three-point arc. The Longhorns' 56 points were a season low.

"We came out with no energy," Hamilton said after the game, the Longhorns' first true road match of the year.

Texas isn't set to play again until hosting Texas State on Saturday. The Longhorns will then host North Florida before starting a tough stretch that includes North Carolina, Michigan State, Arkansas and Connecticut over a five-game string.


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