Trojans Easily Handle UC Riverside, 70-26
Dec. 15, 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ If there was ever a college basketball game that cried out for a mercy rule, this was it.
Jio Fontan and Eric Wise each scored 14 points and USC ended a five-game losing streak with a 70-26 rout of cold-shooting UC Riverside on Saturday. It was the Trojans' best defensive effort since Dec. 16, 1946, when Whittier scored 22 points against them. They had 10 blocked shots, including a career-high six by 7-foot center Dewayne Dedmon.
``It gives us something to smile about. We haven't been able to smile in a while,'' said Fontan, the Trojans' senior point guard. ``It was great defense for us, but just an unfortunate night for those guys. To see a team go through that kind of struggle, it's unfortunate. They're not as bad as that score looked, and we've got a lot of respect for them.''
Chris Patton and Chris Harriel had a team-high six points each for Riverside (2-8), which shot 19 percent from the field and was 1 of 14 from 3-point range. It was the lowest overall shooting percentage ever for a USC opponent, breaking the previous mark of 19.2 by Oregon State on Dec. 11, 1954.
The Highlanders had eclipsed the previous school record for fewest points in the shot-clock era on Nov. 14, when Fresno State beat them 39-30. The low-water mark before that game had been a 56-35 loss to USC last season.
``I've been there,'' Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said. ``When I was at Northwestern, I think we scored eight or 10 in a half. Jim Woolridge is a hell of a coach, for a long time. I feel for anyone in that situation. We know it's not Minnesota, who is 13th in the country. We understand that. But it's a step back to digging out of a hole we got ourselves in by not playing hard and not defending.''
Riverside's starting five _ Harriel, Robert Smith, Lucas Devenny, Davin Guinn, and Josh Fox _ were a combined 4 of 28 for 12 points.
``It was a big-time offensive struggle. Nothing was falling for us,'' Patton said. ``We were getting the looks that we wanted, but it just seemed like there was a lid on the basket.
``I didn't think that we were relying on the 3,'' added Patton, whose took all 11 of his shots from in front of the arc and made just three. ``I didn't have any problems with most of the 3s we were taking. We got it inside a lot, but it was just a matter of finishing the plays. It was a little bit of an adjustment playing against bigger bodies, but that's no excuse. We've got to be able to make these shots that we've been working on every day.''
Riverside made only five of 29 shots in the first half, had six shots blocked and was 0 of 7 from behind the arc. The Highlanders, returning to the court following a 10-day break for finals, didn't get their first field goal until Smith converted Austin Quick's steal of Dedmon into a fast-break layup with 13:56 left in the half.
But all the offense the Trojans could muster to that point was a 3-pointer and a 17-footer by Wise, a Riverside native who transferred to USC after three seasons at UC Irvine.
The Trojans (4-6) eventually got on track, building their lead to 10 on a 3-pointer by Brendyn Taylor and extending it to 36-12 with a 20-2 run during the final 7:25 of the half _ the first time in eight games that they led at intermission. USC shot 71 percent in the half, compared to Riverside's 17 percent.
Fontan helped fuel the pivotal rally with eight points and Byron Wesley capped it on a three-point play with 7.5 seconds on the clock.
``The team did a great job of staying in my ear about staying confident,'' Fontan said. ``They understand the process that I'm going through and they have a lot of respect for me. When you have guys like that around you, who really care about you and feel like you're capable of doing things, it makes your confidence even stronger.''
Fontan transferred from Fordham to USC last January and started all 21 games in which he appeared. But during the Trojans' exhibition trip to Brazil in the summer, he tore his ACL. In his first 10 games back, he is averaging 9.1 points, 5.2 assists and 30.4 percent shooting.
``Nobody understands how hard it is to come back off major knee surgery,'' O'Neill said. ``Today he looked the most confident he's been since he came back from the surgery. Once he hits his stride, we're going to be fine.''
It was more of the same Trojan dominance in the second half, as USC opened up a 44-point cushion with an 18-1 run coming out of intermission. Riverside missed its first 19 shots and didn't make a basket until Harriel's 3-pointer, which rolled around the rim twice before falling through with 5:38 left in the game.
``I sort of knew we hadn't scored, and it was almost too hard to believe that we had gone such a long time,'' Patton said. ``I couldn't even really comprehend that it was the first field goal we had in the half.''
Omar Oraby had seven points and eight rebounds in his first start for the Trojans. The 7-foot-2 Egyptian-born center, who was held scoreless in the first half of USC's 71-57 home loss Minnesota a week earlier, had averaged 6.9 points and 2.8 boards in his nine games off the bench after transferring from Rice in September.
``We knew USC would give us trouble, especially inside with their size,'' Woolridge said. ``I thought I prepared them well enough to compete, but we just lost our confidence. and after that we just didn't play with effort. Obviously, that's on me.''
USC has won all six times the schools have met, but only five of those victories count. A win from the 2007-08 season was vacated as a result of the O.J. Mayo scandal. The last time the teams played, on Nov. 30, 2011, USC ended Riverside's 16-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents. That also was the Trojans' last road win.
USC has three nonconference games remaining before its Pac-12 opener against Stanford on Jan. 1 at the Galen Center. The Highlanders have two more nonconference games before their Big West Conference opener against Cal Poly on Dec. 29 at Riverside.