LOS ANGELES -- If last week's games against Oregon and Oregon State were the softest USC had played on defense this season, Thursday's game against Stanford was the hardest.
Not one Cardinal player finished in double figures in points. Star guard Jeremy Green had five points -- 10 below his season average -- on nine shots. Freshman swingman Anthony Brown, who didn't get off the bench in Stanford's biggest win this season over Washington last week, had a team-high nine points. As a team, Stanford shot 22 percent from the field.
"We dominated on defense," said USC reserve guard Donte Smith, who was partly in charge of guarding Green.
The primary Green-guarder was defensive specialist Marcus Simmons, who once again did a superb job on an opponent's best player. He struggled on the defensive end in Oregon, but, as Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said, that was largely because he tends to take a "vacation" when defending secondary players.
Sort of like USC did in Oregon, actually. But that was fixed Thursday.
"We did everything that we didn't do when we were on the road," O'Neill said. "And that shows who we have to be as a team."
"Our players may not want to hear it, but that's who we have to be."
Nikola Vucevic led USC (11-8, 3-3) with 20 points. Guard Jio Fontan had 12 and forward Alex Stepheson added 10. All seven of the Trojans' normal rotation players scored. Other signs of Stanford's offensive ineptitude: the Cardinal (10-7, 3-3) totaled four assists, shot 17 percent from 3-point range and almost had more offensive rebounds (16) than defensive boards (18).
Said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins: "We didn't play well tonight and I think that was clear to everyone."
Player of the game: Vucevic was efficient from the field and effective on defense. He made nine of 11 shot attempts for his 20 points, recorded nine rebounds and added two blocks and two assists
Dawkins called him one of the better big men in the conference. O'Neill said he was simply continuing his solid play from the end of the Oregon weekend -- Vucevic was the only Trojan to have a good game on Saturday against Oregon State with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Stat of the game: Stanford made 14 field goals in 63 attempts -- good for that sparkling 22-percent clip, the lowest shooting percentage by a Stanford team in the shot clock era.
O'Neill tied that statistic back to the team's record. Hold a team under 40 percent shooting, he often says, and you'll win.
The Trojans did that Thursday.
Quote of the game: "It felt different without Bryce there. It was weird. But we knew that at the end of the day we had to man up and get the job done. We're gonna miss Bryce. He's a good guy, but this is a must-win for us." -- Smith
Freshman guard Bryce Jones announced plans to transfer from the USC basketball program Tuesday, so Thursday's game was the first the Trojans played without the 6-5 swingman. In his absence, freshman forward Garrett Jackson picked up his play a bit and contributed six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
Freshman Curtis Washington also got off the bench late in the game and played four minutes, but it's unlikely he'll play much in the future. O'Neill and USC will likely just stick to a seven-man rotation, which will surely require some adjustment as the season goes on.
Said O'Neill: "We weren't discouraged by losing, we weren't distracted by Bryce's departure. The guys just did their job."
Notes: Stanford's bench far outscored its starters. The seven Cardinal bench players combined for 30 points; the five starters, including Green and Josh Owens, had a combined 12...Stanford's 42 points were the fewest scored by the Cardinal against USC since 1948...It was the fewest points allowed by a USC team since the Trojans gave up only 37 to ASU on Jan. 2, 2010.
Vucevic talked afterward about getting established on the offensive end, whether he was surprised that Stanford didn't spend much time in a zone defense and other topics.
See what he had to say: