USC basketball: No. 12 Kansas beats Trojans, 63-47
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USC aimed to grind another ranked team down Thursday and emerge from a low-scoring dust-up with an upset win, just as it had before.
The problem was, USC lacked the tools (talent, experience, skill) this time, especially against No. 12-ranked Kansas, which played like, well, Kansas.
The Jayhawks bounced back from a loss to Davidson on Monday and polished off USC, 63-47, before a Kansas-heavy crowd at the Galen Center.
USC had knocked off four ranked nonconference opponents in the last three seasons -- an impressive feat considering that during that span, the other Pac-12 Conference teams had five such upsets combined.
The Trojans had a formula for those wins.
In each, they shot well, took at least two dozen free throws and held the opponent to a point total in the mid-50s.
None of those feats was accomplished against Kansas (8-3).
USC shot 35% and took 13 free throws while Kansas had four players score in double figures, led by Elijah Johnson’s 14 points.
Whatever offensive momentum USC (5-8) had from scoring a season-high 83 points in its win Monday against Texas Christian did not last.
Instead, against the always talented Jayhawks, who drew a slew of NBA scouts and executives as well as a legion of loyal fans, USC fell back into old habits, scoring at a tortoise-fast pace -- or not at all.
The first half was USC’s lowest-scoring half since Kevin O’Neill took over as coach -- the Trojans mustered 13 points and had just as many turnovers.
Still, USC’s aggressive defense flustered Kansas. The Jayhawks scored 25 first-half points, one short of a season low for a half. After a grinding start, Kansas used a 17-3 run – most of which came on fast-break baskets – to take a 12-point lead at halftime.
Overcoming a double-digit deficit in the second half seemed daunting for the Trojans, considering their offensive limitations.
And it was.
Kansas stretched its lead to 20 points with less than 10 minutes to go, and it wasn’t long before USC fans started to file out.
Junior forward Aaron Fuller played well for USC, scoring a game-high 19 points.
But USC got little production from its other players.
Point guard Maurice Jones, USC’s leading scorer coming in, was bottled up for most of the game.
He finished with seven points, missing 11 of 13 shots.
The Trojans have a short break before heading to the Bay Area to open Pac-12 play against California on Thursday and Stanford on Dec. 31.
USC swept that trip last season, but it will be tough to repeat:
California and Stanford are a combined 20-3 -- and 16-0 at home.
-- Baxter Holmes