Washington and Washington State arrived at the Galen Center with two of the top three scoring offenses in the Pac-10 Conference.
Unfazed, the Trojans stepped up their defensive intensity, holding Washington to a season-low 55 points in regulation on Wednesday, and Washington State (10-4, 0-2) to a season-low 56 points in USC’s (9-6, 1-1) 60-56 win.
The Cougars went on an 11-0 run late in the second half to bring reduce USC’s lead to 58-56.
Washington State forward Abe Lodwick had a costly turnover, and senior USC guard Donte Smith converted two free throws on the ensuing possession to ensure the victory for the Trojans.
“[Donte] has been a clutch guy for us,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We almost blew the lead, but we did not.
The Cougars came into the game leading the Pac-10 in field goal percentage at 49 percent. The Trojans held Washington State to 30 percent shooting in the first half, and just under 37 percent shooting overall.
Senior guard Marcus Simmons shadowed Cougars guard Klay Thompson all afternoon, limiting the Pac-10’s leading scorer to just 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
Thompson missed his first six shots of the game, and only made 2-of-11 attempts in the first half for six points.
“I did not think [Thompson] would miss that many shots,” Simmons said. “He is a great player.”
The Cougars also did not get a lot of offensive production from guard Faisal Aden, their second leading scorer who came into the game averaging 16.3 points per game.
Aden finished with four points on 2 of 11 shooting and a game-high three turnovers.
With Thompson slumping, forward DeAngelo Casto picked-up the scoring load for Washington State, accumulating 18 points, although only six in the second half.
Smith made four 3-pointers for the Trojans and finished with 14 points. Senior forward Alex Stepheson and junior forward Nikola Vucevic each had double-doubles for USC. Stepheson recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Vucevic had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Trojans have their longest break of the season between games, hosting UCLA (9-5, 1-1) on January 9 at 7:30 PM, the night before the spring semester begins.
“We have played a tremendous amount of high-level games in the last couple of weeks,” O’Neill said. “We need to use the week of practice to get better and take another step.”