Trojans use defense to get past Huskies
SEATTLE -- A Washington student predicted his team’s fate in a way Thursday night when he held up a placard before tip-off reading “T.K.O.J.”
The sign was a not-so-inconspicuous reference to the rumored punch that USC freshman guard O.J. Mayo lobbed at teammate Daniel Hackett last fall, though both players insisted Hackett’s broken jaw resulted from an inadvertent elbow.
But there was no denying the knockout blow that Mayo and the Trojans delivered against the Huskies at Bank of America Arena, using a 19-0 second-half spurt to transform a tie score into an eventual 73-59 victory.
It was the zero side of the run that most pleased USC Coach Tim Floyd, whose team harassed Washington into shooting only 36.1% and making only two of 21 shots (9.5%) from three-point range.
“You can’t have a run unless you stop people,” Floyd said after notching the 300th victory of his collegiate coaching career.
Mayo scored 29 points and freshman forward Davon Jefferson had 17 to lead USC to its sixth victory in seven games. It was the Trojans’ fourth consecutive road triumph and first here since 2004.
“I think we like the road better, to tell you the truth,” said Jefferson, who also had five rebounds and four blocks. “I like doubters. I’ve had doubters my whole life, telling me what I’m not going to do. When people yell at us, screaming our names, that gets us all fired up.”
USC, which improved to 15-7 overall and 6-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference, moved into sole possession of third place in the conference, a swift ascent for a team that started 0-3 in Pac-10 play.
The Trojans’ second-half push came after Washington guard Ryan Appleby dodged a steal attempt by counterpart Dwight Lewis and buried an open three-pointer to tie the score at 38-38.
Lewis responded with seven consecutive points on a three-pointer, a pair of free throws and a floater.
Jefferson followed with a leaning jumper and then freshman guard Angelo Johnson buried a three-pointer from the corner.
Things were really going the Trojans way when sophomore forward Taj Gibson blocked a jump shot by Washington 7-footer Joe Wolfinger, took a feed in transition from Mayo and made a nimble move for a layup that gave USC a 52-38 lead.
The Trojans’ advantage eventually reached 23 points on a one-handed dunk by Jefferson that elicited a few frightful screams from the crowd before Floyd emptied his bench.
Jon Brockman had 13 points on five-for-16 shooting for Washington (12-11, 3-7), which lost despite pulling down 15 more rebounds than the Trojans.
The Huskies have lost three consecutive home games for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
It had been a tight game until the Mayo clinic opened for business in the first half, with Mayo springing for 20 first-half points to turn a one-point deficit into an eventual 14-point lead for the Trojans.
Mayo scored in all sorts of ways, pulling up for a three-pointer from the corner and then another from the wing. He had a steal and a dunk and then stepped around Brockman for a nifty baseline drive and layup.
The only way the Huskies could stop Mayo was when they fouled him on an alley-oop pass from Angelo Johnson. But Mayo made both free throws and finished the half having made eight of 13 shots from the field.
“He’s understanding the college game and what teams are trying to do to him defensively,” Floyd said of Mayo, who made 11 of 22 shots overall.
“He’s deferring and taking great shots. . . . I can’t imagine there being a better player in the country.”
UP NEXT FOR USC
Saturday at Washington State, Friel Court, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7 -- The Trojans haven’t defeated the Cougars in Pullman, Wash., since 2003 and have lost eight of the last 10 meetings overall. Daven Harmeling scored 19 points to lead Washington State to a 73-58 victory over USC last month at the Galen Center as the Cougars pulled away in the second half.
ON THE WEB
Blogger Adam Rose talks to staff writer Ben Bolch about USC’s season prospects.