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Gibson says he could use help down low

Times Staff Writer

With the rigors of his first college season and a lingering bout of tendinitis in his left knee slowing him down, freshman Taj Gibson acknowledged Tuesday that he could use a little help down low Thursday night against Stanford’s 7-foot Lopez twins.

But the 6-foot-9 forward said he would leave the game plan in the hands of Tim Floyd because the Trojans’ coach had guided his team to a better-than-expected third-place standing in the Pacific 10 Conference with two weeks left before the conference tournament.

“It’s coach’s decision,” Gibson said. “I have to go with my coach because he’s the one who tells me what to do and leads the team.”

Senior center Abdoulaye N’diaye said Gibson told him his simultaneous presence in games made things “a little bit easier than usual for him.... I’d really like to do my best to try to help him.”

Gibson, averaging 11.8 points, has totaled two points in his last two games. He is the only USC player to have started all 27 games and is averaging 32 minutes, second to junior swingman Nick Young’s 32.9 minutes.

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Often the only big man on the floor for USC at any given time, Gibson is averaging more than twice as many minutes as fellow frontcourt players RouSean Cromwell (14 minutes), N’diaye (13.6) and Keith Wilkinson (10.4).

During Stanford’s 65-50 victory over the Trojans on Jan. 25 at Maples Pavilion, Gibson played 39 minutes while Cromwell, N’diaye and Wilkinson combined for 20 minutes.

Does Floyd think another big man besides Gibson needs to step up against the Cardinal at the Galen Center?

“It’s a collective group,” Floyd said. “We’re not putting it on any individual. We’ve got to play smart, team basketball.”

Gibson said he had taken 1 1/2 days off between USC’s loss to Arizona State on Sunday and practice Tuesday to rest his aching body. He’s battled the tendinitis in his knee since the Washington game on Dec. 28.

“My teammates need me, and I have to step up,” Gibson said. “I’m going to come out full steam and leave it all on the court.”

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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