Three minutes in, the Trojans are doing a nice job of moving the ball around and letting different players get shots. Nick Young got the Trojans started with their first two points and Gabe Pruitt hit a nice jumper as well. Lodrick Stewart and Taj Gibson followed with forced shots, but it's nice to see USC attacking from all sides of the court.
Nick Young and Patrick Beverley put up back-to-back air balls. Great basketball.
The Trojans have been ridiculously sloppy on their last few possessions. Lodrick Stewart just threw one away under pressure.
There's a nice play underneath from Cromwell, whose dunk cuts the lead to 9-6 Arkansas with 15:07 left.
The Trojans look slow tonight. It's only six minutes in, but the Razorbacks just look quicker in every aspect. Whether it's hitting the ground for a loose ball, challenging shots defensively or finishing shots on the offensive side, Arkansas has been a step ahead of the Trojans since the opening tip.
That's a perfect example. Arkansas just put together three passes and found Charles Thomas wide open at the top of the arc. Cromwell was slow stepping out and Thomas hit the three. On the other side, Nick Young took a three with four hands in his face and left it short.
CBS just moved the Trojans' score from nine to ten while the Razorbacks were on offense. I'm not sure what happened, but I hope it's a trend that continues.
That's twice now that the Trojans have been called for carrying (once on Young and now on Gibson). It's nice to see the call being made, but the referees are asking for trouble if they open that up to interpretation. You can't just make that call twice per game. If you're going to call it, you need to blow the whistle on it forty times per game. You know, how many times it actually happens. By the way, it's 14-11 Arkansas with about 12 minutes left.
I can't tell you how much I'm going to love CBS switching over to the Holy Cross – Southern Illinois or Jackson State - Florida games during the USC game. Someone get me the e-mail address for CBS' suggestion box.
USC just tied it at 14 with 10:42 left. I wish I could tell you how they did it. Although, apparently it was with the help of an 8-0 run.
There's a great steal by Pruitt and a nice finish by Gibson. 16-14 USC. Pruitt is so active defensively; he's really fun to watch.
Wilkinson is doing a great job on Hill underneath. Hill isn't really an offensive weapon, but without a body on him, he'll put up some points.
Consecutive offensive rebounds by the Trojans lead to a Gibson lay-up. That's a great job of converting after getting a second and third chance. 20-17 USC.
There's a carrying call against Pruitt. Okay, I know I said that they should call it, but maybe we should work on calling it both ways.
I don't think anyone is rooting harder against Patrick Beverley than I am tonight after hearing his comments about how Arkansas should make it to the Sweet 16 pretty easily. Why stop there Patrick? Was the rest of that comment, "…but then we'll actually have to show up when we win the whole thing?" You were the last team to get into the tournament. Have a little respect for the teams you're playing.
USC is up 14 – 9 in the rebounding category. I think Arkansas is a little surprised by the play of USC's big guys. Gibson, Wilkinson and Cromwell have been playing very well tonight, while Young is struggling to get going.
Wilkinson just picked up his third foul of the first half, with 7:21 left. N'Diaye is coming in to replace him. But first, the referees are going to make him earn his playing time. Just kidding. Daniel Hackett comes into the game while N'Diaye finishes changing.
Young buries a three. That was some okay ball movement, but there's still not a ton of player movement offensively for the Trojans. It's 25 – 19 Trojans.
Cromwell is the only big in for the Trojans right now as they go with Pruitt, Stewart, Young and Hackett.
Young with a great block that leads to a Stewart three for another 8 – 0 Trojan run, pushing the lead to 28 – 19.
Young with another steal. This four-guard line-up has been playing extremely well. I love Floyd's decision to not wait and react to what Arkansas is doing. They are upping the tempo with a smaller line-up, making the Razorbacks go small or risk getting run up and down the court.
Arkansas is bringing back Hill and Washington, going big again. The Trojans stay small. We'll see if it continues to work.
Well, it probably worked exactly how you thought it would. Hill muscled Cromwell inside for a lay-up. Then, Hackett blew by his taller defender for a right-handed lay-up. Arkansas went right back inside to Hill, who was fouled and took one of the ugliest free throw attempts I've seen in a while.
I'm voting right now that Steven Hill shoots every foul shot for the Razorbacks. I don't know how we can get that done, but let's try.
I hope that N'Diaye gets in this game at some point. I don't want him to be the guy who could have played in an NCAA Tournament game if only he could have figured out how to wear his uniform. It doesn't quite match up with Thurman Thomas losing his helmet to start the Super Bowl, but nonetheless, it's a story you don't want to have to tell.
It's 34 – 23 Trojans right now, and they actually look 11 points better than Arkansas. It's not just a lucky run or some hot jump shooting. Make that 35 – 23 as Stewart buries a jumper. As long as they don't get careless with the ball or fall asleep defensively, they should be able to control this game and extend it into a big victory.
N'Diaye is in, but he and his jersey get called for a goaltending violation.
And N'Diaye is out.
Nick Young picks up a foul for playing defense. I'd really like someone to sit down and explain, definitively, what is a defensive foul and what is aggressive defense. Better yet, let's get all the referees together to listen to the same explanation.
Pruitt can't buy a bucket right now. I like the shots he's taking, but everything is rimming out. Everyone on the Trojans has been taking quality shots for the last ten minutes or so. I'm pretty sure that explains the 36 – 25 lead right now.
N'Diaye is called for a foul after a Hackett missed free throw. Hopefully he doesn't remember this first half.
The Trojans are 10-of-11 from the free throw line with one minute left in the first half. If that continues, they should be okay.
Arkansas looks completely lost offensively. Beyond Beverley getting hot from outside, I really don't see what they can do to combat the Trojan defense.
Gibson hits two free throws to push the halftime score to 38 – 27 Trojans. He's easily the player of the half. With 12 points and seven rebounds, he's outscored the entire Razorbacks' starting front line.
The Trojans are just 2-of-9 from three-point range, but they're hitting 41 percent of their shots from the field and that 12-of-13 from the line is huge. The Razorbacks, on the other hand, peaked five minutes into the game. They have had no offensive flow and nobody has more than five points. It'll be interesting to see if they try to keep forcing the ball inside or if they just start hoisting threes.
And the second half isn't exactly starting the way the Trojans wanted it to. The Razorbacks got an extremely easy basket underneath and stole a Lodrick Stewart pass for an easy hoop. The first half started the same way, with Arkansas grabbing some momentum and storming out to a lead. I'd expect to see the Trojans take over control of the game and simply out play the Razorbacks for the rest of the second half.
Looks like it's already starting. Gabe Pruitt came back with a nice move into a three-pointer and a steal leading to a Gibson dunk. But Gibson hangs on the rim and gets a technical. That's just inexcusable. I don't expect this game to come down to two points, but Gibson just threw away every bit of momentum the Trojans had earned.
Hopefully RouSean Cromwell can get some time in with the Trojan wide receivers during spring practice. If he could hold onto every rebound he gets his hands on, he'd lead the nation.
Gibson just came up huge with two consecutive blocks on Ervin underneath. That leads to a Nick Young jumper, pushing the lead to 49 – 35 USC.
Patrick Beverley misses one of two free throws. Apparently beating USC and Texas is easier than making a shot from 15 feet away with nobody guarding you.
The Trojans are really playing well defensively and that's a huge reason why they're up 13 points right now. It may not be noticeable, but it's really taking a lot out of the Razorbacks when they have to work so hard just to get any sort of look at the basket. They've started out both halves absolutely on fire, but as the game goes on, the Trojans have taken control.
Arkansas is trying to press the Trojans, but USC is just too quick for them. The point guards, whether it's Hackett or Pruitt, are splitting the press and finding guys wide open.
Lodrick Stewart can be absolutely out of control occasionally on his way to the basket. When he puts his head down and goes, the defenders know they just have to stand there and he'll launch himself into them. I'd really like to see him stop forcing things that just aren't there.
The Razorbacks went on a little run there, but the Trojans have somehow extended their lead to 14, 57 – 43, with 8:10 left. They are just so much better than Arkansas tonight. It's really the only way to explain it. USC can do anything it wants on both ends of the court.
Apparently Arkansas' second half offensive strategy is the exact same one that built them an 11-point first-half deficit. Good decision. It's 63-48 USC with six minutes left.
Nick Young goes hard to the basket and lays it in, pushing the lead to 17. It's really fun to watch the Trojans when they're playing like they are tonight. They've been all over Arkansas on the defensive end, out rebounding them 30-20 at this point, and offensively, they're shooting 50 percent from the floor and 95 percent from the line. What's not to like?
It's 67-52 with 4:30 left and at this point, Arkansas couldn't even fit a marble through the rim. They've missed about a thousand three-point shots, led by Beverley's 0-for-6.
Daniel Hackett with back-to-back great plays. He caught his own blocked shot off a three-pointer and finished a lay-up as the shot clock expired. Then, he hustled back on defense and knocked away an Arkansas swing pass. Those are the kinds of plays that win tournament games.
How about Dwight Lewis coming in and making some plays? He threw one down past Steven Hill and followed it up with two nice little floaters in the lane.
With 2:50 left to play and the Trojans up 72-54, the announcers are talking about the USC-Texas match up in the next round. When the seeds were announced, my eye immediately went to that second-round date with the Longhorns. Everyone immediately goes to Kevin Durant, and rightfully so. But as a team, Texas isn't head and shoulders better than the Trojans. They didn't win the Big-12 regular season and they didn't win the Big-12 Tournament. There's a reason they are a number four seed. In fact, if the Trojans play the way they played tonight, I wouldn't be too shocked if they were able to keep Durant in check and pull out a win.
I can't wait for the Trojans to finish off this blowout and then get Patrick Beverley and Charles Thomas to inform Stan Heath of their transfers to USC. The Razorbacks aren't going to let the Trojans back into the country for 50 years after tonight.
The last two minutes tick off the clock and the Trojans wrap up a 17-point victory, 77-60.
What a great win for the Trojans tonight. This year's team deserved to stick around in the NCAA Tournament and they followed through with a decisive victory. The Razorbacks were banking on the fact that their big guys could outmuscle the Trojans inside, but it was Taj Gibson who dominated the paint. He finished with 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Arkansas isn't exactly the most talented offensive team in the tournament, but the Trojans held just about everyone in check, allowing just 37 percent shooting from the field and 14 percent from beyond the arc. The Razorbacks couldn't get anything going against the Trojans' swarming defense and the best surprise of the game had to be the 33-25 advantage that USC enjoyed on the boards.
Nick Young chipped in with a game-high 20 points and Gabe Pruitt had 11 of his own. Daniel Hackett played some inspired basketball and the Trojans received some much-needed help from Keith Wilkinson, RouSean Cromwell and Abdoulaye N'Diaye down low. Lodrick Stewart also provided some help on the perimeter, with eight points and two rebounds.
As the Trojans get set to take on the Longhorns, they should truly relish this win. No victory in the tournament is a given and after earning such a lopsided win in the first round, they need to understand what they've accomplished as a team.
Don't take too long, however, Texas is calling.
Erik McKinney is a columnist for WeAreSC.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.