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Trojans fall short when it gets physical

Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO -- This was not the kind of one-and-done predicament that O.J. Mayo and USC envisioned this season.

The Trojans’ freshman guard drove into the lane several times in the second half Saturday night and had shots either swatted or altered by Stanford 7-footer Brook Lopez, leading to quick-ending possessions.

On the other end of the court, there was a smorgasbord of second chances for No. 24 Stanford, which pulled out a 52-46 victory over No. 22 USC at Maples Pavilion despite shooting only 27% from the field and piling up more than twice as many turnovers as assists.

The Cardinal (12-2 overall, 1-1 Pacific 10 Conference) sent USC (9-5, 0-2) to its worst two-game start in conference play under Coach Tim Floyd by outrebounding the Trojans by 16 in the second half and by 17 for the game.

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“We stopped them many times, but they just kept getting the rebounds,” USC sophomore forward Taj Gibson said of Stanford, which collected 14 of its 23 offensive rebounds in the second half.

The Trojans weren’t exactly scorching from the field either, making 34.7% of their shots and only 16.7% from three-point range. USC also had more than three times as many turnovers (23) as assists (seven).

But the Trojans still had a chance after Mayo made his only three-point basket with less than two minutes to play and then Gibson found sophomore guard Daniel Hackett cutting toward the basket for a layup and foul that provided a three-point-play opportunity with 1 minute 3 seconds remaining.

Hackett made the free throw to cut the Trojans’ deficit to 48-44, and the Trojans thought they had forced a turnover when they trapped Stanford guard Anthony Goods near the half-court line. One official called a backcourt violation and another called a foul on USC guard Dwight Lewis, with the latter call standing as Trojans players pointed animatedly at the other official.

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“I guess they have to go with one call, and they went with the foul,” Hackett said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You have to respect the calls.”

Stanford made four of six free throws over the last 28 seconds to seal the Trojans’ fate and prompt the crowd to chant, “Just like football!”

Mayo played most of the second half with a bandaged cut above his right eyebrow after taking an elbow to the head as he boxed out on a free throw. He required three stitches after a game in which he also took a beating on several of his forays into the lane.

“They did a great job of protecting the paint,” said Mayo, who scored a team-high 14 points on five-for-19 shooting. “We kind of tried to force it in there maybe a little too much, me included, but I tried to draw a foul or something and a couple of them were blocked.”

Goods had 11 points and was the only Cardinal player to score in double figures, and it was little wonder considering that Lopez and Fred Washington each made only three of 10 shots, Lawrence Hill made only three of 11 and Goods made only three of 12. Stanford shot only 20.6% in the second half.

“I can live with this,” Floyd said of losing a game in which an opponent shot so poorly. “I thought our guys really played committed on the defensive end. We had looks and didn’t get some down, but let me tell you something: They don’t give up points to anybody.”

Floyd shook up his starting lineup, with Angelo Johnson and Keith Wilkinson replacing Lewis and Davon Jefferson, but the Trojans never seemed to find a rhythm on offense after struggling mightily on defense two days earlier against California. Johnson hobbled around the court for much of the second half after experiencing cramps in his right calf and his back.

As if to underscore the sense of urgency with games against No. 4 Washington State and No. 5 UCLA on the horizon, the Trojans will hold a rare Sunday practice today. One point of emphasis should be obvious.

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“We just need to rebound better as a team,” said Gibson, who had nine rebounds. “Each time we have different guys coming down and rebounding two at a time, three at a time, but we need five. It takes five to win, and that showed tonight.”

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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