USC: Mike Gerrity

Jio Fontan is Pac-10 player of week

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
2:32
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USC junior guard Jio Fontan is raking in the honors.

He's already the Trojans' best player, according to USC coach Kevin O'Neill. Now he's on the conference spotlight.

The former Fordham transfer was named the Pac-10 player of the week Monday, just nine days after making his USC debut in a hotly contested road game at No. 3 Kansas. The award covered his second and third games for the Trojans, wins over No. 18 Tennessee and Lehigh. Fontan averaged 17 points, four assists and 3.5 steals in the two games.

Fontan earned Atlantic-10 All-Rookie Team honors after his freshman season at Fordham in 2008-09, but he had never before earned a player of the week award.

It's the 32nd time a USC player has earned Pac-10 honors. Former transfer point guard Mike Gerrity was the last winner, last December.

Also nominated this week were Arizona forward Jesse Perry, Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, Washington guard Isaiah Thomas and Washington State guard Klay Thompson. Previous winners this season have been Thompson (twice), UCLA forward Reeves Nelson (twice) and Arizona forward Derrick Williams.

USC basketball: Season primer

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
11:38
AM PT
video
It's not often that coaches are willing to pin the success of their entire squad on one or two players.

But second-year Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill is more than willing to do just that with his 2010-2011 squad, which officially begins play Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Galen Center against UC Irvine.


Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
USC coach Kevin O'Neill isn't shy to tell you the Trojans will go as far as big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson will take them.


See, O'Neill freely admits his team's success this year will depend -- heavily -- on the big man duo of junior Nikola Vucevic and senior Alex Stepheson. The two combined to average more than 19 points and 16 rebounds a game last season as Vucevic earned conference most-improved honors and Stepheson played his first season for the Trojans after transferring from North Carolina.

Behind them, the Trojans' cupboard is just about completely bare on the front line -- and most other places on the court, too.

"We're gonna go as far as Nik and Alex take us," says O'Neill, who went 16-14 and 8-10 last year, his first on the job. "If they constantly get in foul trouble or get injured, we're gonna struggle. We have two post players with any experience at all on the roster -- after that we'd have to play down-sized with four out and one in.

"It's imperative those guys have a great year. I think they are the types of guys that can really carry a team and lead a team."

And it doesn't stop there. According to O'Neill, USC's success also depends squarely on senior swingman Marcus Simmons, a noted defensive stopper who has struggled offensively in years past. Simmons averaged just three points a game last season while playing consistent minutes, but his shot is thought to be an improved commodity this fall after he spent the summer fine-tuning it.

Says O'Neill: "He's a guy that's going to have to have a solid year for us to be any good at all."

(Read full post)

Tuesday links and notes

May, 4, 2010
5/04/10
2:57
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Plenty of USC-related news on this Tuesday in Los Angeles:
  • Fresh off its first Pac-10 series win this season, USC baseball returns to the field today with a big midweek game against UC Irvine. Of course, UC Irvine's head coach is Mike Gillespie, who resigned from the same post at USC in 2006 — only to be replaced by his son-in-law (current coach Chad Kreuter) -- and took the job at Irvine, where he is 114-47 in two-plus seasons. Kreuter's Trojans are 19-24 this season and in desperate need of a string of wins. Last week, Kreuter said he expects the Pac-10 could very well qualify eight teams for the NCAA Tournament later this month. USC is currently 10th — the only team in the conference under .500. Still, an eighth-place conference finish is within reach.
  • In basketball news, the school announced today that Iowa big man Aaron Fuller will transfer to USC and redshirt the 2010-2011 season. Fuller was a valuable player for the Hawkeyes, leading the team in both points (12.3) and rebounds (7.6) during Big Ten play. "We are very excited to have Aaron at USC," coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement. "He is going to be a tremendous asset to us on and off the court. We love his tenacity, hard work and desire to get better."
  • The latest installment of Athletic Director Mike Garrett's "From the Desk of the A.D." journal entries arrived today. A nugget regarding the NCAA investigations: " I get asked daily about when we'll be hearing from the NCAA regarding its findings in the pending investigation. I don't have an answer; the NCAA will release the results when its committee members have concluded their work. We hope it is soon."
  • Here's a profile of USC guard Marcus Simmons from a school publication. Simmons, a senior to-be, was an important cog in O'Neill's rotation this season and could be even more important next season, considering the Trojans will graduate senior guards Mike Gerrity and Dwight Lewis. Simmons plans to improve by then. A highlight from the story: " 'I'm going to get better," Marcus said nodding his head with enthusiasm. 'That's a promise. Bigger, faster, stronger for next year.' "
  • USC director of basketball operations Dwayne Polee turned in his resignation last week, the L.A. Times reports. Polee was hired by former coach Tim Floyd in 2007, during the time his son, Westchester High standout Dwayne Polee Jr., was committed to USC. Polee Jr. since decommitted from the Trojans and will soon choose between St. John's, Oregon and Georgia. The elder Polee did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Final: Arizona 84, USC 82 (2 OT)

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
12:06
AM PT
USC's season ended dramatically with a double-overtime loss to Arizona Saturday, 84-82. But much the way they did all season long, the Trojans competed until the end of the game — regardless of the obstacles along the way.

And there were a lot of obstacles Saturday. USC led 69-66 with seconds to go in regulation, only to have Nikola Vucevic called for a foul on Arizona's Kyle Fogg with 0.2 seconds remaining. Fogg went to the line for three free throws and converted all of them.

The Trojans also dealt with a number of other questionable calls, including an Arizona shot attempt that appeared to go off after the shot clock hit zero. In the end, though, Wildcats point guard Nic Wise wiggled through the USC defense to make a layup with 1.2 seconds left and send the Trojans home after two overtimes.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill refused to comment directly on any specific call when discussing the game with reporters afterward.

"Everyone knows what happened out there," O'Neill said. "It's no secret. Everyone at the game saw what happened and I'm going to leave it at that."

USC (16-14, 8-10) did have a number of impressive perfomances. Senior guard Dwight Lewis, playing his last collegiate game, had 21 points and five rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime. The team's two other seniors — point guard Mike Gerrity and forward Marcus Johnson — had 16 and 13 points, respectively.

But all five Wildcats starters were in double figures in points, including forward Derrick Williams, a former USC recruit. Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Now, Arizona (16-14, 10-8) moves on to the Pac-10 tournament, which kicks off Wednesday night with a play-in game at Staples Center. The fourth-seeded Wildcats will play UCLA on Thursday afternoon.

But the Trojans will have no more games, and so they close the 2009-10 season on a five-game losing streak. We'll have more reflection on the season later on the blog.

For now, a quote from Gerrity (via USCfootball.com) ends it well: "I think everybody can look back and say we had a good season. We didn't do what we sat out to do but people played good basketball. All in all, it was a great season."

Revisiting Oregon State

February, 28, 2010
2/28/10
2:01
PM PT
Again, not a pleasant atmosphere in USC's locker room following the Trojans' 49-44 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. Here are a few choice quotes we couldn't fit into the recap:

Coach Kevin O'Neill, on whether he believes his team is tired, which he said Thursday: "I can't even tell anymore. Tired’s not an excuse for 20 turnovers. Tired’s not an excuse for shooting 29 percent. It’s who we are, and it’s unfortunate for our fans and unfortunate for everybody."

More O'Neill, on the team's recent three-game losing streak to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State: "The thing that’s in common is that all those teams played us zone."

Forward Nikola Vucevic, on the Trojans' overall fatigue: “That is a factor, but it’s not an excuse,” Vucevic said. “Because every team plays the same amount of games, so everybody’s tired. We did feel a little tired and we don’t have a lot of rotation so the time accumulates and we get worn out and we can’t keep up the same intensity for 40 minutes."

Guard Dwight Lewis, reflecting on the loss: “I was disappointed with how the game turned out,” Lewis said. “We didn’t want to leave the Galen Center on a loss, but it happened, and we can’t really do much about it now.”

More Lewis, asked if he understood why the Trojans were more successful again: "It's mind boggling. I don't know what it is. We beat good teams and lose to the bottom half of the Pac-10."

Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, on his impression of a USC team that struggled to score against his Beavers: "Their front line is so athletic and imposing. It was so demoralizing for them to have nine offensive rebounds in the first half and it looked like we weren't going to be able to get back in this game."

Final: Oregon State 49, USC 44

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
8:55
PM PT
Disappointment.

In some form, that was the word of the night in the USC locker room after the Trojans fell 49-44 at the hands of the Oregon State Beavers.

Dwight Lewis was "disappointed with how the game turned out." Nikola Vucevic said it was "disappointing, because everybody wanted to leave the arena with a win." And Mike Gerrity was "just disappointed" to lose his final home game.

But — all forms of disappointment aside — USC simply played too sloppily to earn a victory on senior day. Marcus Johnson and Donte Smith combined to turn the ball over 12 times. Not one Trojan made even half of his shots.

In all, it was more than a little reminiscent to Thursday's loss to Oregon.

"I said it last game," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said, visibly disappointed in his final home news confernce of the season. "You're not going to win many games with 20 turnovers, 44 points, and shooting 29 percent from the field.

"It's very difficult to win games when you play like that."

Very difficult indeed. The Trojans started well, opening up a 21-10 lead midway through the first half. But from that point on, USC scored just 23 points in 28 minutes while the Beavers — noted offensive non-powerhouses themselves — scored 39.

Oregon State leading scorer Calvin Haynes had just eight points, and the Beavers were as stagnant on offense as the Trojans were.

But something was a little different on their end of the sideline.

“Our guys just decided that they wanted to win this game,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “They came out and they executed.”

Player(s) of the game: Oregon State's Tarver brothers — Seth and Josh — might have been the two most effective players on the court. Seth, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard, made six of nine shots and scored 15 points. Josh, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound reserve point guard, drew praise from Robinson because of his inspired play. Playing 32 minutes, the senior recorded four steals, two blocks and eight points — and didn't turn the ball over once.

"Josh is forever going to have a special place in my heart because he has been through so much," Robinson said Saturday. "He works so hard and is such a good role model."

Play of the game: They were certainly anti-climactic, but Roeland Schaftenaar's four made free throws in the final minute were crucial to the Beavers' eventual victory. Schaftenaar, a 75-percent shooter this season, knocked down four consecutive shots on one-and-one opportunities. Even one miss would've made it a one-possession game and given the Trojans an infinitely higher shot to win.

By contrast, USC's Johnson also stepped to the line twice in the final minutes but made only one out of a potential four free throws. The Trojans shot 58 percent from the line in the second half.

Quote of the game: "I think we got a bounce-back in us," Lewis said. "One last one."

For a team that's been through so much — ineligibility, injuries and self-imposed sanctions included — the Trojans have managed to do considerably more than what was expected of them. But another two losses in Arizona next weekend would send them into the off-season on a five-game losing streak.

Said Lewis: "Nobody wants to end the season a loser."

Gerrity said the Trojans would need more motivation than that to stop their recent downward spiral.

“We just gotta dig in and find that strength within each of us and when we step on the floor just be proud that we were able to wear the USC uniform and play Division-I basketball,” Gerrity said. “Even though we don’t have anything after this, it’s still playing out of respect for the game of basketball, as Coach O’Neill always says.”

Notes: Said Lewis of the gifts he received during the senior day celebration from Athletic Director Mike Garrett's young son and wife: "That was real nice. I didn't even know they knew my name." ... Attendance at the Galen Center was listed at 6,158 — about on par with the Trojans' cellar-dwelling numbers all season long. The closest to a sellout USC got was the 8,836 in attendance on Valentine's Day against UCLA. ... The loss ended USC's winning streak on Senior Day at 13 straight seasons.

Halftime: USC 25, Oregon State 24

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
8:38
PM PT
We're halfway through Senior Day at the Galen Center, and the seniors are really shining — on both sides.

Oregon State's Tarver brothers — Seth and Josh — have combined to score 15 points early on, and USC's Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson have matched them with 15 of their own. In all, USC leads 25-24 at the half.

The Trojans led 21-10 with 7:42 to go in the game, but seven straight points from the Tarvers and a big 3-pointer by Omari Johnson closed the gap near the end of the half.

USC's been playing sloppy, with 12 turnovers. The Beavers have scored 10 points of those turnovers. Coach Kevin O'Neill said that the 23 3-pointers the Trojans attempted in Thursday's loss to Oregon was far too many, but they've taken 10 already today. They've made just three.

Johnson provided the biggest highlight of the first 20 minutes with a big block on a lay-up attempt from Seth Tarver near the end of the half.

Preview: Oregon State at USC

February, 27, 2010
2/27/10
2:47
PM PT
Plenty of storylines to watch at the Galen Center today.

1. It's senior day. How will USC's three seniors — point guard Mike Gerrity and guards Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson — respond to the overall emotion of the night?

Lewis, now the career leader in games played in USC history with 130, said he'll be a "little emotional" after the game, but denied it would affect his play. Gerrity said he was just glad Thursday's game — in which he was held scoreless on seven shots — wasn't senior day.

2. The Trojans are coming off two straight losses. What can coach Kevin O'Neill's team do to prevent extending its losing streak?

The last time USC lost more than two games in a row was early December, but that was before the zone epidemic reached Los Angeles. Every Pac-10 team has been defending USC with a 2-3 zone since January, and the Trojans re going to see much of the same from Oregon State. Craig Robinson's team will be in that zone all game long, and O'Neill's team isn't well-equipped to handle that.

"We'll be playing all our games against the zone," O'Neill said at the start of his press conference following Thursday's loss. "And it'll be the goal of our weekend to try to bounce back from this loss and try to play a better game on Saturday."

3. Oregon State's a grudge match for the Trojans. They led by five at the half last time in Corvallis before collapsing in the final 20 minutes to lose, 51-45, shooting 39 percent and turning the ball over 19 times. What can they do different this time around?

"We had leads in the first half, leads in the second half," O'Neill said. "That was a case of just turning the ball over, which is uncharacteristic of us. We're going to have make sure

And for Oregon State, well, the Beavers (12-15, 6-9) are, in all likelihood, out of NCAA tournament contention, but a win today would go a long way towards giving them a higher seeding in the Pac-10 tournament. And with the conference as open as ever this year, a higher seeding could very well mean a Cinderella-esque run for Oregon State in the tournament — a la USC a year ago.

USC (16-11, 8-7) is still tied for third in the Pac-10, but in order to have any shot at a share at the regular season title, the Trojans need to win out. That quest starts today against the Beavers and continues next weekend against the Arizona schools.

Tip-off's at 4:30 on Prime Ticket. We'll have frequent updates and a postgame report, as usual.

Notes: Forward Kasey Cunningham will also be honored as part of USC's Senior Day festivities. O'Neill said this week that Cunningham, a redshirt junior, doesn't plan to return for what would be his fifth year of eligibility and will graduate this summer...Oregon State guard Calvin Haynes is hot of late, scoring 14 points Thursday against UCLA and 21 in a loss to Stanford last weekend. Haynes is averaging 13.3 points per game on the season.

Revisiting Oregon

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
4:12
PM PT
The mood in the USC locker room after Thursday's 54-44 loss to Oregon wasn't exactly happy. Before we head over to Dedeaux Field for tonight's 6:30 p.m. matchup with Oklahoma State, here are a few quotes that couldn't fit into the recap:

Senior guard Mike Gerrity, on hoping to finish well at the Galen Center on Saturday: "I'm just glad that's not our last game that we're leaving on."

More Gerrity, on offensive failures that contributed to the team's 12-point second half: "We settled a bit for the outside shot instead of trying to get it into the bigs. We were having some success, but I think we got away from that in the second half."

USC coach Kevin O'Neill, on an overall lack of energy exhibited by his team: "Even when we were up nine in the first half, we didn't play with energy. We just didn't have it tonight. I hope we can bounce back Saturday."

Sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic, asked if it was hard to get the ball inside when facing the 2-3 zone: "It is. Because those three guys inside, they really shrink. And as soon as we catch it it's like two or three guys on us. It's really hard to do something inside when a team plays zone because even if you catch it you can't make your move."

More Vucevic, on whether the team is capable of finishing strong and possibly capturing a share of the regular-season Pac-10 title: "It's going to be hard after a game like this tonight. But I think we can still bounce back."

And Oregon coach Ernie Kent, who was both extremely pleased with his team's performance and extremely complimentary of the Trojans: "USC is a big and physical basketball team. They play hard against the glass and the grit of this game was keeping them off the court. This team played very well and were tough competitors tonight."

Next up for the Trojans is a 4:30 game Saturday against Oregon State at the Galen Center, the last home game in the college careers of Gerrity, Dwight Lewis, and Marcus Johnson.

Prepping for Oregon

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
8:34
PM PT
Four games are left in USC's season — or eight hours of basketball, as coach Kevin O'Neill put it this week.

But the regular season Pac-10 conference title is still in reach for the Trojans. While they don't exactly control their destiny, victories in each of their last four games would give them a strong chance to grab the honor.

At 8-6 in conference play, USC is alone in third place. Arizona State is a game in front, and California is in first with a 10-5 record. Winning out would mean the Trojans would finish no worse than second.

But don't tell them that, of course. The focus is still on Thursday's game with Oregon, set for 7:30 p.m. at the Galen Center.

The Trojans lost to the Ducks in Eugene last month, 67-57. Oregon's Malcolm Armstead and Jeremy Jacob combined for 37 points.

"It was tied at 47 with four minutes left, so we played a pretty good game," O'Neill said before alluding to the now-infamous Stan Holt debacle, where the graduate student manager drew a technical foul and was ejected from the game. He was fired soon after and then reinstated by O'Neill.

"Then the momentum changed, obviously," O'Neill continued. We know what happened during that game."

Incidentally, the Ducks haven't won a game in five tries since then. But that didn't stop O'Neill from praising an Oregon team he says is very well-rounded.

"I think they have a lot of good players," O'Neill said Wednesday. He went on to spotlight Oregon's LeKendric Longmire and Michael Dunigan — neither of whom played big roles in the previous game between the two schools.

Oregon coach Ernie Kenthad similar praise for his counterpart this week, saying he held O'Neill's team in very high regard.

"They are a very good basketball team that is very well coached," said Kent, who's rumored to be on his way out at Oregon. "They have a certain style of play that bothers people."

We'll have more from the Galen Center in advance of Thursday's game.


Notes: Former USC player Mosi Tatupu, father of recent USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu, died late Tuesday at 54, the school announced in a news release. ... The USC baseball team lost an exhibition game to Japanese Rikkyo University on Wednesday at Dedeaux Field, 9-0. Rikkyo, which lost to UC Irvine on Tuesday in an exhibition, used wood bats. ... Lewis will be one of four seniors to be honored in Saturday's Senior Night festivities, which will also feature Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Kasey Cunningham. Lewis' parents are in town from Texas for the occasion.

Recapping Tuesday

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
11:27
PM PT
A baseball victory, more news on the Kevin O'Neill conference-call front, weekend happenings and recruiting speculation. All in Tuesday's links and notes:
  • The Los Angeles Times reports O'Neill's conference call with the NCAA Committee on Infractions that took place last Friday lasted nearly five hours. Said O'Neill of the correlation between a lack of a normal Friday schedule and Saturday's loss to Washington State, according to the Times: "It was a different situation. It threw us off our routine somewhat, but that's the way it is." O'Neill's team will host Oregon on Thursday and Oregon State on Saturday at the Galen Center. The Oregon State game will be senior night for USC's Dwight Lewis, Mike Gerrity, and Marcus Johnson.
  • Speaking of basketball, a documentary featuring USC guard Jio Fontan, titled "The Street Stops Here," is set for release next month. Fontan is featured as a high school senior at Jersey City St. Anthony High School. Says the press kit's biography of Fontan, who transferred to USC from Fordham after the fall semester: "A senior starting point guard, Jio Fontan is a co-captain of the team and is often seen as a soft voice of reason. Smart and strong-minded, Fontan is determined to learn from his father's transgressions and work hard in school to ensure that he is defined by more than just basketball." We'll soon have a review of the documentary, produced by Chicago-based Teamworks Media.
  • Meanwhile, the Orange County Register reports offensive line recruit Seantrel Henderson has no timetable on signing a letter of intent. Henderson committed to the Trojans on National Signing Day earlier this month but has not officially signed with USC. The Register quotes his father, Sean, as saying the Henderson family is still "just gathering info."
  • USC baseball managed to eek out a win in its home opener, 6-5 over Loyola Marymount. Sophomore right-hander Ben Mount made the start and lasted six innings, giving up only two hits and no walks. Reliever Brett Williams struck out the last batter of the game — and only one he faced — to earn the victory over his former team. The Trojans used some small ball in their half of the eighth inning, putting together two singles, a walk, a hit batter and an error to score three runs and take the lead. Tweeted freshman Cade Kreuter, coach Chad Kreuter's son, after the game: "another rbi under my belt, another win under our belt..i said we gonna have a rainy day tomorrow so 'brella up.' " The Trojans host Rikkyo University in an exhibition game Wednesday at Dedeaux Field.
  • On deck for this weekend is the NFL Combine, which actually begins Wednesday in Indianapolis. Workouts don't start until Saturday, however. The Daily News has the position-by-position workout schedule: offensive lineman, tight ends and specialists on Saturday; quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs on Sunday; defensive linemen and linebackers on Monday; and defensive backs on Tuesday.

Halftime: Washington State 23, USC 19

February, 20, 2010
2/20/10
3:03
PM PT
It hasn't exactly been an eventful first half in Pullman, Wash.

After 20 minutes of play, Washington State leads USC 23-19 at the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum. WSU's Marcus Capersand USC's Dwight Lewis each have seven points to lead their respective teams, but scoring has been at a premium thus far.

The game started off well for the Trojans, as forward Alex Stephesonconverted a layup on the game's first possession. But USC wouldn't score again for nearly five minutes, when a Nikola Vucevic dunk tied the score at 4-4.

USC did manage to pull in front, 19-18, on a Leonard Washington dunk with 90 seconds to play in the half, but a 3-point play from Capers and jumper from DeAngelo Casto gave the Cougars the 23-9 lead at the half.

Interestingly, WSU's Reggie Moore and Klay Thompson — the high-scoring duo we highlighted pregame) have combined to go 0-for-9 on field goal attempts. Moore made two free throws late in the half, but Thompson's been held scoreless.

Only four players have scored for the Trojans. Point guard Mike Gerrity is 0-of-4 from the field as USC has collectively shot just 35 percent.

Final: USC 67, Washington 64

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
11:49
PM PT
It wasn't as easy this time around, but USC beat Washington again Thursday night 67-64 at the Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle.

A complete team effort gave the Trojans the victory. Guard Dwight Lewis led all scorers with 22 points, but three other USC players scored least 10 points. Only two Huskies were in double figures — guard Quincy Pondexter (18 points) and forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning (14).

USC led 32-24 at halftime, but the Huskies put together a second-half run to close to within 61-60 after Venoy Overton converted a layup with 1:25 left.

But USC's Mike Gerrity took control from there, making a layup and a clutch jumper while controlling possession of the ball. Overton made one free throw and a late 3-pointer, but it was too little too late, as USC earned the victory.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill relied almost exclusively on forward Leonard Washington as his power forward, playing Alex Stepheson only 11 minutes. Washington responded well to his 29 minutes on the court, recording eight points, eight rebounds and a steal.

For the Trojans (16-9, 8-5), it was their first true road victory outside of Los Angeles this season. USC had won the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii in December on a neutral court and beat UCLA in Westwood last month — but that was it.

Thursday was only the second loss in 18 home games this season for the Huskies (17-9, 7-7). The Bank of America Arena at the "Hec Ed Pavilion," as it's known, was bouncing in the second half of the game, but Gerrity's shot quieted the crowd.

The Trojans now travel to Pullman, where a matinee with Washington State awaits them on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Cougars fell 71-51 to UCLA on Thursday night.

Revisiting UCLA

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:37
PM PT
The USC locker room had a noticeable pep in its step after Sunday's 68-64 win over UCLA at the Galen Center. Here are a few quotes that couldn't fit into the recap:

Senior guard Dwight Lewis, on the team's feeling heading into the game and the level of difficulty in preparing for a rivalry game: "We came into the game loose. We weren't really tensed up. We were ready to play in a big game, a big rivalry. If you can't get excited for this, you really shouldn't be playing."

Coach Kevin O'Neill, on his understanding of the importance of the USC-UCLA rivalry: "From the time I sat in the interview with Mike Garrett, I understood how important it is to beat UCLA. We approached it like it's an important game. It has recruiting ramifications."

The rest of Alex Stepheson's humorous play-by-play of Marcus Johnson's second-half dunk attempt: "I saw Marcus take those two powerful steps, and I was like, 'Here we go.' He jumped from far, he cocked it back, and I swear I thought he was gonna try to break the dude's arm. Just to go for something like that is crazy."

Point guard Mike Gerrity, on the win as it relates to a potential conference title: "They say you treat every game the same, but there's certainly a little more motivation for us in the fact that it's UCLA. It's that's much sweeter for us. But we still feel like the job isn't complete yet — we'd rather hold up the conference championship trophy than win this game."

Moving on, the Trojans (15-9, 7-5) were off Monday and play Washington on Thursday in Seattle. The Huskies (17-8, 7-6) stand alone in f0urth in the Pac-10, a half-game behind USC.

Smith comes up big

February, 14, 2010
2/14/10
11:35
PM PT
For USC reserve guard Donte Smith, this season's been a struggle.

He averaged 32 minutes and eight points per game as the Trojans' starting point guard in the first eight games of the year, but scored a total of 14 points over the next 10 games when Mike Gerrity became eligible.

He went games without scoring, games without playing more than two meaningful minutes a half.

And he grew tired of it, apparently. He approached coach Kevin O'Neill about his lack of minutes in practice last week.

Player and coach say the result of the meeting was a realization that Smith needed to work harder during the week in order to earn more playing time during the weekend.

And, well, "it showed in the game," Smith said.

O'Neill said his play in practice was impressive. Smith said he worked harder all week long. And the 5-foot-11, 180-pound combo guard had 12 points and two assists in 19 minutes Sunday against UCLA.

"Donte came off the bench and gave us a huge, huge spark," said Gerrity, who had just six points against the Bruins. "We rode that for a little bit."

“That’s my role. Just bring high energy off the bench, play lockdown defense, make big plays for us — that’s what I do,” Smith said.

And USC can use him. O'Neill has lamented for much of the season the Trojans' lack of a true backup point guard.

Now, Smith may not be that guy.

But he may be even better.

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