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Trojans Get Minimal Leadership From Seniors

Times Staff Writers

So much for USC’s seniors dominating their UCLA brethren.

While Nick Curtis, Rory O’Neil and the Craven twins, Derrick and Errick, entered Saturday’s game with a 5-1 record against the Bruins, they barely made any contributions in the 72-69 loss to the Bruins.

The quartet was a combined three for 13 from the field, scoring seven points with six rebounds and five turnovers.

“I wanted to play our seniors more,” USC interim Coach Jim Saia said. “We didn’t get anything out of them.”

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Derrick Craven, who played nine minutes, admitted that coming off the bench was hard, though playing at the same time as his brother was gratifying for both of them.

“Not being able to contribute, that’s real frustrating,” he said. “We’re only guaranteed five minutes. But hey, it’s our role. We’ve just got to take it, take it like a man. It’s tough when the roles have changed.”

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USC stopped playing zone defense in the second half, and burly USC forward Gregg Guenther guarded quick UCLA forward Dijon Thompson, who scored 16 of his team-high 24 points after the break.

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“We had to go man and I had a bad matchup, but I had to get out of the zone to get more intensity,” Saia said. “I had to play Guenther because I felt he was competing out there. But from the offensive end it was a mismatch.”

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Matt McKinney, a redshirt sophomore forward for UCLA who had struggled this year with a stamina problem that kept him from playing hard for more than a minute or two at a time, contributed four points and three rebounds in nine minutes.

McKinney, 6 feet 8 and 222 pounds, said he has suffered from a stomach ailment and the medication he had been taking was causing his heart to slow down. “I’m taking a different medication now,” McKinney said, “and I feel a lot better.”

Coach Ben Howland had hoped all year that McKinney could give the Bruins a rough-and-tumble big body presence inside. “Matt can actually go longer now,” Howland said. “This thing is figured out finally.”

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Howland was particularly pleased with a rebound from 6-2 point guard Jordan Farmar off Young’s missed three-pointer with five seconds left in the game. “That was 40 inches of vertical,” Howland said. “At least.”

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Times staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.


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