USC can’t pull off upset of Kansas
USC aimed to grind another ranked team down Thursday and emerge from a low-scoring dust-up with an upset win, just as it had before.
Problem was, USC lacked the tools this time, especially against No. 12 Kansas, which played, well, like Kansas.
The Jayhawks bounced back from an upset loss to Davidson on Monday and polished off USC, 63-47, before a season-high 6,431 at the Galen Center.
“I think the stage was as little bit too big for our young guys, and they reacted to it,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said.
USC (5-8) had knocked off four ranked nonconference teams during O’Neill’s three seasons — an impressive feat considering in that span the other Pac-12 Conference teams had five such upsets combined.
The Trojans had a formula for those knock-off wins.
In each, they shot near 50% from the field, attempted at least two dozen free throws and held opponents to approximately 50 points.
None of those feats was accomplished against Kansas (8-3).
USC shot 35% and had only 13 free throws, while Kansas, playing its first true road game this season, had four players score in double figures, led by Elijah Johnson’s 14 points.
“We didn’t come out and play very well,” O’Neill said. “We just didn’t play with force.”
Whatever offensive momentum USC had from scoring a season-high 83 points in its win Monday against Texas Christian didn’t last.
Instead, against the always-talented Jayhawks, who drew a slew of NBA scouts and executives, as well as a legion of loyal blue-clad fans, USC fell back into old habits, scoring at a tortoise-like pace.
The first half was USC’s lowest-scoring half since O’Neill took over, as the Trojans mustered only 13 points and had just as many turnovers.
“When we turn it over, that’s when we really give ourselves some problems,” O’Neill said.
After a grinding start, Kansas used a 17-3 run — most of which on fastbreak baskets — to take a 12-point lead at halftime.
Overcoming a double-digit deficit seemed daunting for USC, considering its offensive limitations. And it was.
Kansas stretched its lead to 20 points methodically, and with less than 10 minutes to go, USC fans began filing out.
Junior forward Aaron Fuller played well for USC, scoring a game-high 19 points. But USC got little production outside of him.
Point guard Maurice Jones, USC’s leading scorer coming in, was bottled up for most of the game. He scored seven points, missing 11 of his 13 shots.
The Trojans have a short holiday break before heading to the Bay Area to open Pac-12 play against California on Thursday and Stanford on Dec. 31.
USC swept that trip last season, but it will be tough to repeat:
Cal and Stanford are a combined 20-3 — and 16-0 at home.