For the Trojans, a rabid response

Some raccoons carry it. Dogs can too. And let's not forget bats, cats and rats.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill wants his players to have it as well, since he thinks it will increase their intensity.

"I always tell our guys, play like you have a shot of rabies in you," he said after his team's 67-46 win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. "Play like you have rabies."

By his account, they did, minus the foaming mouths.

After slow starts in their previous two games -- both losses -- the Trojans came out more aggressively and jumped out to a 30-13 lead in the first half.

"They completely dominated us from the beginning," said UCLA Coach Ben Howland.

Leading, 33-21, at halftime, the Trojans started the second half with a 17-5 run.

"Coach told us to jump on them early and try to impose our will, and we felt that if we did that, we'd have a good chance to win," said USC guard Dwight Lewis, who had a season-high 24 points.

Much of the aggressiveness came on the glass, where USC outrebounded UCLA, 37-22. USC also won big in the paint (28 points to 14) and on second-chance points (13-4).

Like O'Neill said, rabies.

Injury to insult

It was bad enough to lose by 21 points.

But the Bruins came away limping as well.

Forward Michael Roll strained a muscle in his midsection early in the game and will be re-valuated today. Guard Jerime Anderson, who was slowed by a groin injury earlier this season, was limited to nine minutes, all in the first half, because of a hip flexor.

"He had tweaked it on Tuesday," Howland said. "It's in the same area as the groin. I didn't want him to aggravate it in the second half. We have a lot of games to play."

Howland said Anderson "didn't practice the last two days, and we didn't want to make that public and didn't want it to make their game plan."

USC did fine without the information.

Roll said he took a knee in the stomach. "Any time I turn, or any movement I make, it hurts," he said.

Dragovic's woes

UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic was 0 for 6 from the field, 0 for 3 on three-point attempts. He also had only two rebounds in 31 minutes of playing time.

"It's very, very disappointing," Howland said. "He took some bad shots today. He has to understand that this is the result when you don't wait for it. We need him to be way more patient. Teams are forcing him to put the ball on the floor, and that's not his strength."


It was an especially good Saturday for Lewis.

He had a big game, his team got a big win and his hometown New Orleans Saints also rolled, beating the Arizona Cardinals, 45-14, to advance to the NFC championship game.

"Always a good day when the Saints win," he said. . . .

Former NBA player Clifford Robinson has been hanging around USC's practices this week and visiting with O'Neill, who was an assistant with the Detroit Pistons from 2001 to 2003 when Robinson was with the team.

"He's been talking all week," said forward Marcus Johnson.

And what did he say Saturday?

"I told them I didn't come to see a loss," Robinson said, smiling as he stood outside the locker room. . . .

The crowd of 11,108 was the largest of the season for UCLA.

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