USC can kick back a bit
It was an unusual situation for USC Coach Tim Floyd, deciding whom he could play instead of whom he had to play.
Coming off a stretch of games in which the Trojans went only six or seven players deep and required 37-plus minutes from nearly every starter, their 81-53 victory over Oregon State on Saturday at the Galen Center represented a rare reprieve.
Five USC reserves combined for a whopping 65 minutes and posted several memorable moments, including a three-point basket by walk-on guard Terence Green in the final minute that prompted the Trojans starters to celebrate wildly on the bench.
“You want to sing ‘Kumbaya’ after the game after he makes a shot,” Floyd said of Green, whose field goal was the first of his career.
More important than the rest for the regulars was the fact that USC improved to 17-9 overall and 8-6 in the Pacific 10 Conference while maintaining its hold on fourth place in the conference standings. The Trojans are half a game in front of fifth-place Arizona, which plays host to USC on Thursday in Tucson.
More help could be on the way soon for USC. Sophomore guard Daniel Hackett said he resumed running Saturday in his recovery from a stress fracture in his lower back and had a checkup scheduled for Monday with a back specialist.
If all goes well, Hackett said, he could resume practicing Tuesday and play against the Wildcats.
“I’m just excited,” said Hackett, who has already been cleared to shoot jump shots on Monday. “I want to be out there. . . . But I’m in the doctor’s hands. If he says no, I can’t do anything about it.”
The Trojans benefited from the surprise return Saturday of freshman guard Marcus Simmons, who entered less than two minutes into the game when teammate O.J. Mayo stepped on the back of another player’s shoe and tweaked his left heel.
Mayo took some painkillers, returned just over four minutes later and went on to score a game-high 21 points in 25 minutes. His four three-pointers gave him 66 for his career, a USC freshman record.
Simmons showed a burst of explosiveness late in the game when he sped into the lane for a one-handed dunk attempt, but he couldn’t quite get it down.
“I elevated off my good foot, so I don’t know how I missed it,” said Simmons, who estimated that his chronically sprained left ankle was about 85% healed. “I know my mom will call me about it.”
Simmons finished with four points and five rebounds in 16 minutes in his first game since Jan. 24.
Things threatened to get historically ugly for Oregon State (6-21, 0-15) in the first half.
The Beavers made only two of their first 19 shots and didn’t break into double digits in scoring until only 3 minutes 30 seconds before halftime.
A jumper by Calvin Haynes with 5:45 left pulled Oregon State to within 37-9 and erased the possibility of matching a record for the fewest points by a USC opponent in a half since 1940. San Francisco scored seven points against the Trojans in a half in 1941.
USC freshman guard Angelo Johnson continued his impressive play with 13 points, including a flurry of three consecutive three-pointers early in the second half.
With the outcome safely secured midway through the second half, Floyd went with a lineup that consisted of Simmons, walk-on Ryan Wetherell and junior reserves RouSean Cromwell and Keith Wilkinson in addition to starter Dwight Lewis.
“We had fun tonight as a team,” Simmons said.