In arguably its most complete road performance of the 2010-2011 season, the USC men’s basketball team defeated California Thursday night, 78-75.
On a night when the Trojans (14-12, 6-7) received double-doubles from junior forward Nikola Vucevic (19 points and 10 rebounds) and senior forward Alex Stepheson (10 points and 11 rebounds), it was the outside shooting of freshman guard Maurice Jones (Pac-10 high 22 points) that kept the team ahead for the final 30 minutes of the contest.
After the game was deadlocked at 11-11 midway through the first half, the Trojans’ clamped down at the defensive end holding the Bears (13-13, 6-7) without a point for a five-minute stretch.
USC used a 13-0 run to take a commanding 33-22 lead in the break.
In the second half, Jones took over for the Trojans, connecting on five 3-point baskets. Cal, behind junior forward Harper Kamp (16 points and 9 rebounds), cut the gap to one on multiple occasions early in the half, but Jones caught fire for a seven-minute period, scoring 18 points and pushing the lead back to 57-47 with 10 minutes to play.
All five Cal starters scored in double figures, including senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison who had a career-high with 23 points, but poor perimeter defense proved to be the difference, as the Bears gave up 61.5 percent from three-point range, en route to their fourth straight conference loss.
For USC, the next stop is Maples Pavilion to take on the Stanford Cardinal (13-12, 6-8) Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Trojans will try to do something they have yet to achieve all season: win consecutive games on the road.