Trojans smother Longhorns with defense

USC upsets No. 19 Texas behind career-high 24 points by Nikola Vucevic and renewed intensity on defense.

Something about the color orange and the initials ‘UT' strikes the fancy of the USC men's basketball team.

After knocking off Tennessee at home last season in what was the Pac-10 Conference's marquee non-conference win, the Trojans turned in another dominating performance, this time against the burnt orange of Texas.

Nikola Vucevic scored a game-high 24 points while a renewed defensive effort frustrated Los Angeles native Jordan Hamilton at almost every turn as USC manhandled the 19th ranked Longhorns, 73-56, before 4,127 at Galen Center on Sunday night.

"We didn't deserve to win," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We got outplayed in every area of the game."

Hamilton, who starred at Compton Dominguez High, was held to a season-low 12 points, mostly through the tenacious defense of senior guard Marcus Simmons.

"Hamilton is a great shooter and (USC coach Kevin O'Neill) really stressed that we stay in his jersey wherever he is," senior forward Alex Stepheson said. "Don't let him get any open looks and we always knew where he was on the court."

With a bevy of NBA executives and scouts in attendance to see the sophomore swingman, including Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, Hamilton shot just 1 of 5 in the first half and 4 of 13 overall against the Trojans (5-4).

He wasn't the only Longhorn (6-2) that struggled, as the team shot 32.1 percent for the game. Sophomore guard J'Covan Brown had a team-high 17 points for Texas, but needed 15 shots to do so.

That's exactly what O'Neill wanted, hammering home defensive fundamentals after a disastrous road trip where the Trojans blew a second-half lead at Nebraska and were routed by TCU.

"This week in practice, we found out what's important to us and that's playing great defense," O'Neill said.

"There was some yelling, some running, some tough drills. He made his point," Stepheson said.

"He demanded that if we do anything today, we're going to play some defense and be tough."

That intensity combined with the inside presence of Vucevic and Stepheson, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds, exploiting Texas' man-to-man defense was more than enough to pull the upset.

"Our plan for the year is going to be inside with the ball," O'Neill said. "We have to do that."

"They got position where they wanted and the post guys didn't fight them enough," Barnes said. Top Stories