COLUMBIA, S.C. -- O.J. Mayo took a pass from Daniel Hackett and went in for a dunk with five seconds left Saturday night at the Colonial Center, officially making it a double-digit doozy of a night for his teammate.
The late assist was the missing piece in Hackett’s first career triple-double, which sparked USC to an 85-75 victory over South Carolina that helped the Trojans further distance themselves from an embarrassing home loss to Mercer.
The sophomore guard finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists -- all career highs -- in front of a crowd that included 16 NBA scouts. It was believed to be the first triple-double by a USC player since the 1970s, a school spokesman said.
“O.J. Mayo is as good as advertised, Taj Gibson is a really good player, but as I was afraid, Daniel Hackett was the guy we couldn’t control,” South Carolina Coach Dave Odom said.
Mayo led all scorers with 29 points and sophomore guard Dwight Lewis had a career-high 18, but it was Hackett’s line that really impressed Odom. He made six of nine shots and all eight free throws to go with two steals and no turnovers in 40 minutes, all in only his second game back from a broken jaw.
While acknowledging that he was pleased with his first triple-double since high school, Hackett said he was happier that the Trojans had bounced back from their season-opening setback with consecutive road victories.
“Individual statistics, they don’t even count,” he said. “What counts is the wins on the road.”
The Trojans (2-1) return to Southern California today a different team than they were just a week ago. Their commitment to defense and crisp ball movement were the difference against South Carolina (2-1), which had trounced its first two opponents by an average of 43 points.
USC Coach Tim Floyd started four guards -- Hackett, Mayo, Lewis and Angelo Johnson -- alongside forward Gibson to combat the small, speedy Gamecocks. Floyd also ordered all four guards to run back on defense on every USC shot to prevent South Carolina from mounting any kind of transition game.
The result was a 40-30 halftime lead for USC built on the strength of a 21-6 run midway through the first half, and the Gamecocks never got closer than five points during a second half in which the Trojans committed only one turnover.
Forward Dominique Archie had 20 points for South Carolina, which shot 37.7% and had only 13 fastbreak points after combining for 51 in its first two games. Gamecocks guard Devan Downey had 15 points but made only five of 18 shots.
The fans might have offered more resistance on this trip than the Trojans’ opponents did.
Two days after being the object of derisive chants and signs at the Citadel, Mayo was treated to more Southern “hospitality.” One fan yelled, “O.J.! You lost to Mercer? You’re horrible! You’re the reason you lost!”
Mayo was a big reason the Trojans won Saturday. Floyd singled out a play in which he fed an open Hackett for a three-pointer in the corner, and Mayo made a trio of three-pointers himself, one from NBA range.
“These were plays that we refused to make in our first game,” Floyd said. “We couldn’t make over one pass against Mercer. The last guy to shoot was a rotten egg. They’ve grown and they’ve practiced and played like losing bothered them early, and we’re making some progress.”
Gibson, who had eight points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, attributed USC’s turnaround in part to a team meeting in which the players asked themselves, “What is it going to take to win?”
“We just all finally came together as a team,” Gibson said.
A big part of that group is Hackett, who has been the steadying force the Trojans missed in their opener.
“He’s a calming influence,” Floyd said. “He’s a poised guy who understands basketball and how we want to play, and I think the other guys who have been sitting there without any real role models on the perimeter are now getting a great grasp of how we want to go play as a result, and now they’re barking the same things Daniel’s barking, and it’s really helping us. Daniel’s been a tremendous addition.”
UP NEXT FOR USC
Thursday vs. San Diego, 9 p.m., Anaheim Convention Center, ESPN2 -- San Diego defeated Hawaii and Cal State Monterey Bay in its first two games under new Coach Bill Grier before dropping a 66-55 decision against Nevada Las Vegas on Saturday. Junior forward Gyno Pomare led the Toreros with 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Runnin’ Rebels.