Vucevic Keys USC Victory

Nikola Vucevic led all scorers with 17 points, along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, but it was the usual defensive stinginess that snapped a two-game losing streak by the Trojans (13-11, 5-6 Pac-10).

There weren't many style points to be had for USC against Oregon State. In fact, it seemed like every time the Trojans tried to make a flashy play, it blew up in their faces.

Still, transition defense and unusually sharp free throw shooting pushed USC past Oregon State, 67-56, at Galen Center on Thursday night.

Nikola Vucevic led all scorers with 17 points, along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, but it was the usual defensive stinginess that snapped a two-game losing streak by the Trojans (13-11, 5-6 Pac-10).

"It was a good win for us. Any win is a good win," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said.

"We made some great hustle plays to get back in transition three or four different times when we turned it over and stopped them from scoring."

The Beavers (9-14, 4-8 Pac-10) came up empty on three different transition opportunities in the second half, managed just 10 points off turnovers and 8 fast break points, despite the Trojans' sloppy approach to ball movement.

"We've got balls bouncing off our heads and our legs and our arms and spin-o-ramas and throw it off the backboard," O'Neill said. "I can't believe some of the stuff I see sometimes, but the one thing I did like that I saw is we hustled and played hard. We defended and rebounded and we won the game."

That carelessness was best exhibited in a sequence O'Neill called "as dysfunctional as you can look" when several ill-advised passes led to near-turnovers, only for the ball to skip to freshman Maurice Jones, who knocked down a corner three.

That shot was among the few highlights for Jones, whose foul trouble left Jio Fontan as the lone ball-handling guard for long stretches of the second half.

Scoreless against UCLA, the junior transfer from Fordham finished with 9 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and just 2 turnovers against the conference leader in steals per game.

"The last couple games I haven't been playing too well. It wasn't a crazy night as far as stats but just being aggressive opened a lot of things up," Fontan said.

But the biggest turnaround came at the charity stripe, where USC hit 17 of 21 free throws – 81 percent – after averaging just 64.5 percent for the season.


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