Dec. 23, 1997
USC Almost Guns Down No. 3 Jayhawks
LOS ANGELES - Raef LaFrentz had 17 points and nine rebounds and Paul Pierce scored 17 points as third-ranked Kansas continued its success in the state of California with a 74-69 victory over Southern California.
Kansas (14-1) has won six straight and extended its winning streak in the Golden State to eight games since suffering back-to-back defeats to USC and San Diego State in December 1978. LaFrentz had his school-record streak of seven straight double-doubles snapped but grabbed his 1,000th career rebound and is third on the school's all-time list with 1,005.
"Real good teams find a way to win sometimes when they don't play well," said Kansas coach Roy Williams. "Southern Cal had a lot to do with that and they played with more defensive frenzy tonight. They outplayed us, they outcoached us. We were more gifted. When we looked up at the end we had more points. We weren't attentive, they outscrapped us. What caused that, I don't know."
It was the first time Kansas played on an opponent's home court this season.
"It was bad in about every aspect of basketball that it could be bad in," LaFrentz said. "I didn't know what it was. We were very fortunate to be up by two at halftime. We aren't tired, it's not a matter of being tired, it's just a matter of going out and doing justice to the task at hand. Playing in front of 5,000 people that's not an Allen Fieldhouse. It's kind of like a neutral court, playing in a tournament like we've been doing. Guys just have to be ready to play."
Elias Ayuso scored 19 points before leaving with a sprained left ankle with 3:42 to play for USC (4-4), which has lost its last three games. The Trojans have dropped nine of their last 11 meetings with ranked opponents.
"We ran our regular offense but when we didn't run anything. You saw how discombobulated it was in the first few minutes of the second half when they got that nice lead," said USC coach Henry Bibby. "They have too many horses and they keep coming at you. They have two or three All Americans and one of the best coaches in America. It was an uphill battle and we're short on people. But if we play this well every night we'll be OK."
Ayuso opened the second half with a three-pointer to give USC its last lead, 38-37. Billy Thomas answered with consecutive three-pointers to give the Jayhawks a 43-38 advantage with 18:34 remaining. Pierce converted a three-point play to cap an 18-6 run, giving Kansas a 55-44 cushion with 14:31 to go.
Thomas finished with three three-pointers, bringing his school-record total to 211. Thomas and backcourt mate Ryan Robertson each had 11 points for Kansas, which took a 6-5 edge in the all-time series.
The Jayhawks opened their biggest lead when LaFrentz hit a layup to make it 63-49 with 11:43 to play.