The USC men’s basketball team made a triumphant return to the Galen Center, convincingly defeating Stanford 65-42 Thursday.
Coming off a pair of embarrassing road defeats last weekend at the hands of Oregon, who had lost its first four Pac-10 games, and Oregon State, who had lost its previous three Pac-10 games by a combined 50 points, the Trojans (11-8, 3-3) desperately needed a change of scenery.
Playing in front of their home fans for the first time since Jan. 9, the Trojans looked energized, starting the game on a 24-8 run, and led 37-22 by halftime.
The Trojans did not let up in the second half, extending their lead by as many as 34 points.
Defense was the key for the Trojans. Forty-two points was one more than the season-low for Stanford (10-7, 3-3). The Cardinal only made 22.2 percent of their shots, compared to 55.6 for USC. The Trojans also recorded eight blocks and outrebounded Stanford by eight.
“Defensively, we were great,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill. “Our team has to realize it is all about defense because we are not going to beat anyone offensively.”
Senior guard Marcus Simmons was again assigned the task of guarding the opponent’s best player, matching up against Stanford guard Jeremy Green. Simmons held Green to five points on two-for-nine shooting.
The Trojans were led by junior forward Nikola Vucevic, who had a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Jio Fontan had 12 points and four assists, and senior forward Alex Stepheson added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Thursday’s game was the first without freshman guard Bryce Jones, who announced that he plans to transfer.
“We did everything we did not do on the road,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill. “We were not discouraged by losing.”
With the game out of reach, freshman forward Curtis Washington played the last four minutes of the contest, the first time he entered a game since November. Walk-ons junior guard James Dunleavy, sophomore guard Daniel Munoz, junior guard Eric Strangis, and redshirt freshman Tyler Sugiyama also came off the bench for the first time in Pac-10 competition.
The Trojans next host California on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. The Bears are led by junior forward Harper Kamp, who averages 13.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez contributes 12.2 points and a team-high four assists per contest.