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Orr Appears at Right Time : College basketball: After playing poorly all season, he scores 24 points to lead USC past Notre Dame, 77-74.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

George Raveling has been saying all along that USC would “live or die” by the three-point basket.

Saturday afternoon at Joyce Center, the Trojans almost died by it.

After blowing a 25-point lead, the Trojans rallied for a 77-74 victory over Notre Dame before 9,318.

Their fifth victory in a row was the result of good free-throw shooting in the final minute. The Trojans, who were shooting only 59.3% from the line, made five of six attempts to close out the victory after Lorenzo Orr had put them in front to stay, 72-71, on a short jump shot with 1:10 to play.

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It capped a game in which the 6-foot-7 sophomore was 10 of 11 from the field, tying a school record held by three others, the last being Wayne Carlander, who made 10 of 11 against California in 1984.

The victory gave the Trojans a 7-2 record and tied the series with Notre Dame, 4-4. USC has won the last two here, but Notre Dame handed the Trojans their only home loss last season.

During the first half, the Irish could not defend the three-point shot and, after Monty Williams opened the game by making one, they could not shoot it--or much of anything else.

In 7 1/2 minutes in the middle of the first half, the Trojans outscored Notre Dame, 19-0. It helped give them a 40-19 halftime lead.

USC’s Tremayne Anchrum made a layup to start the second half. Suddenly, the Irish began to rumble. Coach John MacLeod, used to making up big deficits as an NBA coach with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, put on a pressure defense that shook up the Trojans. The Irish went on a 15-0 spurt and made it a tight game with 10 minutes to play.

Williams, a 6-8 forward who was out two years because of a heart problem, keyed the comeback. He scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, including three three-pointers.

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With 1:34 to play, his three-pointer gave the Irish their first lead since early in the game, 71-70. But Orr, who was emerging from Raveling’s doghouse, Rodney Chatman and Anchrum scored in the clutch for the Trojans.

“What a way to start the new year,” Raveling said. “It was much better for us that we didn’t win a one-sided game. We showed we could win a tight battle. We needed that, going into the conference season.

“I have been a college coach for 31 years, and I’ve never been prouder of a team than I am this one. To be 7-2 at this stage is amazing.

“We’ve been on an NBA schedule. We left home Christmas Eve. Five of our guys had never been away from home at Christmas. This trip made a bond among them that you can’t improve upon. They are learning to rely on each other.”

This was Orr’s first big game of the season. He had lost his starting job to Anchrum and had not played well. But Raveling had former teammate Harold Miner and others talk to Orr.

His brilliant play was the key to the big first-half run, and he scored eight of the last 19 points to finish as high scorer for USC with 24 points. Dwayne Hackett had 21.

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The Trojans, who were six of nine on three-point shots during the first half, finished at 10 for 20. In the second half, the Irish made six of 12.

Raveling was lavish in praise of MacLeod.

“With all John lost from last year, it would not have been surprising if he won only five games all season,” Raveling said. “But already he played Indiana tough and then almost beat us. He has made them competitive. He has done a job. I knew he would have them battling in the second half.”

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