Trojans are overwhelming
Suspense, in an almost ghoulish way, did linger until late in the second half of USC’s blowout against Tennessee Martin on Friday night at the Galen Center.
You wondered whether the Skyhawks would manage to score more than 30 points. And if that sounds slightly unfair, well, Tennessee Martin did only score 17 points in the first half, shooting a mere 27% from the field.
For the record, it happened with 6:03 remaining -- the Skyhawks hit 32 on center Eric Massey’s layup and they got truly ambitious and broke the 40-point barrier, as USC defeated Tennessee Martin, 70-43. The Trojans are unbeaten at home.
One highlight moment -- amid the many USC dunks and drives -- was a nice move to the basket by a certain 5-foot-11 freshman guard from Beverly Hills with a little more a minute left.
That was none other than Percy Miller, rapper Lil’ Romeo, who scored the first points of his collegiate career, and celebrated by slapping the hands of his USC teammates on the bench.
“Oh yeah, I knew he was going to get up there and get that little finger roll and get fouled,” said USC’s DeMar DeRozan. “So I’m used to seeing that. I’m glad he got in there and got that.”
There were some more serious matters for the 4-2 Trojans, who had lost two of their last three games and, in a 10-day span, watched some big-time inside size vanish from their future.
“This was a team that 10 days ago, we expected Alex Stepheson to be with us,” USC Coach Tim Floyd said. “And Nikola Vucevic and Kasey Cunningham to be with us. And in a 10-day period we lost all three of them.”
Cunningham suffered a season-ending knee injury in the loss to Missouri on Sunday in Puerto Rico, and the team is awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on the future of Vucevic, a native of Montenegro. The transfer Stepheson will have to wait until next year to play.
Floyd went out of his way to apply some pressure in regard to Vucevic and didn’t even pretend to be subtle.
“We’re hoping we will hear from the NCAA pronto on Nikola Vucevic,” Floyd said. “He’s already missed six games. A young guy needs to be playing in these games. The bottom line is Nikola sat on the bench on a pro team overseas.
” . . . As a 14-year-old, he was the mascot for the . . . team. And they chanted his name at the end of two games and he got in there for a minute in two games. Never got a dime. If they had paid him at 14, they’d have been out of their minds.
“I think he’s sat long enough.”
The Trojans, who broke the game open with a 16-2 run in the first half, had three players in double figures: Taj Gibson (15 points), Dwight Lewis (13) and DeRozan (12). They had 16 turnovers.
For Tennessee Martin (2-3), senior guard Lester Hudson was below his average of 24.8 points, scoring 20 points, and just nine in the first half. He was fourth in the country in scoring last year, averaging 25.7 points.
“There were some things in the game that we liked and were some things in the game that were exposed and we’ve got to continue to work on as a team,” said Floyd. “We struggled without [Daniel] Hackett on the floor.
“His line doesn’t look really, really impressive. But in our opinion, it was, because he’s the guy that the ball doesn’t die when it hits his hands. He moves it and makes things happen.”
USC up next
vs. San Francisco, 7:30 p.m., Monday, Galen Center -- The Trojans (4-2) are coming off a laugher against Tennessee Martin, in which they led 40-17 at the half and never looked back. San Francisco’s lone defeat in its first five games was a 87-74 loss at California.