USC does it again, downs No. 10 Arizona

Fontan, Stepheson and Vucevic combine for 57 of USC's 65 points to knock off conference-leading Wildcats.

Credit USC, it knows how to rise to the occasion.

The Trojans pushed then-No. 3 Kansas to the brink at Allen Fieldhouse, knocked off No. then-No. 19 Tennessee and pasted Texas, now ranked fifth in the country.

So it should be little surprise that USC put together one of its best games to down No. 10 Arizona, 65-57, Thursday night at Galen Center.

The win keeps alive slim hopes that the Trojans could earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"Right now, it's up to us," O'Neill said. "We have a lot of work left to do, but you can at least see there's a little hope at the end of the tunnel if you can keep playing hard and take care of your business."

Buoyed by another stellar performance from junior forward Nikola Vucevic, who scored 25 points and had 12 rebounds – both game-highs for his 16th double-double of the season – it was guard Jio Fontan that stepped up by tying his season-high with 21.

The junior is settling in to the point quite nicely since head coach Kevin O'Neill handed Fontan primary ball-handling responsibilities last week in the Bay Area.

"Jio is starting to feel like it's his team a little bit," O'Neill said.

"I've been through a couple different transitions," said Fontan, referring to his nearly 18-month hiatus after transferring from Fordham and now moving back to the point. "It's starting to come back together for me."

Even though he finished with just three assists, Fontan was aggressive from the start, opening up easy shots and lay-ups for teammates. He also hit the team's only three-pointer and was 6-of-12 from the floor.

Alex Stepheson added 12 points, including 6-of-7 from the free throw line, and 10 rebounds.

The Trojans (16-12, 8-7 Pac-10) as a whole were 22-of-27 from the stripe, 20 percentage points above their season average.

"It's huge. We have to make free throws. Free throws should be like lay-ups for us," said Vucevic, who was a perfect 7-for-7.

In fact, the team got its final nine points at the line, hitting all but one attempt, as it finished on a 15-3 run over the final 4:55.

And while USC got to the line, Arizona (23-5, 12-3 Pac-10) and its star forward Derrick Williams had no suck luck.

The one-time USC signee and projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft was held to a season-low eight points, shooting 3-of-11 from the field.

Williams, whom O'Neill called "the most protected dude I've seen since Michael Jordan" earlier in the week, shot two free throws. The sophomore had been averaging more than nine per game, prompting him to tell O'Neill "that's one with more to come" during his lone trip to the line.

"Amazing how that happens," O'Neill joked.


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