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Basketball: USC 63, ASU 61

1/27/2011

Hey, all that matters is the 'W', right?

USC (12-9, 4-4 in Pac-10) snuck away with a 63-61 victory over Arizona State in Tempe on Thursday, getting a key 26 points from Nikola Vucevic to level its conference record back to .500. The Trojans didn't do anything particularly well, but they did just enough for the win -- something you couldn't say about most of their games in recent weeks.

We focused in our preview about the need for 5-foot-7 point guard Maurice Jones to be more aggressive. Jones was Thursday, finishing with 14 points, six assists and six steals for his best game in more than a month. The steals were a career-high and the points and assists were the most he'd put up in a game in a month. Reserve guard Donte Smith played 37 minutes -- starter Jio Fontan was plagued with foul trouble -- and finished with 11 points.

ASU's Rihards Kuksiks had 22 points, including five 3-pointers, and guard Ty Abbott added 19 for the Sun Devils. Only other player had more than three points, though, and ASU clearly had no answer defensively for Vucevic. 7-footers Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski picked up four quick fouls in 13 minutes; the Sun Devils went small for most of the game.

This was coach Kevin O'Neill's third Pac-10 road win in two years on the job. USC now faces Arizona on Saturday in Tucson.