Trojans cruise to easy victory over Lehigh

The tumultuous non-conference portion of USC’s schedule came to a close Wednesday night.

There have been highs, such as recent wins over ranked opponents Texas and Tennessee, and there have been lows, including a 20-point home loss against Rider, and a large blown lead on the road at Nebraska.

Wednesday night’s game against Lehigh (6-6) was another high point for the Trojans (8-5), a convincing 76-49 win.

USC came out shooting the ball well, making six of their first seven 3-point attempts.

Junior guard Jio Fontan shined in his first home appearance and third game overall since becoming eligible to play for the Trojans after transferring from Fordham. Fontan had a game-high 21 points, and made all four of his 3-point attempts.

“Jio is getting better every game,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “He is a guy who [fills] a missing piece for us.”

Junior forward Nikola Vucevic came alive in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points after halftime, while also adding 10 rebounds. Senior forward Alex Stepheson also had a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

With senior guard Marcus Simmons draped all over him, sophomore guard C.J. McCollum, the Mountain Hawk’s leading scoring who entered the night averaging 22.5 points per game, only managed to score one point in the first half, and seven points overall.

After back-to-back victories, and four wins in the last five games, the Trojans believe they have discovered what it takes to win.

“We have to play defense,” Vucevic said. “We have to stop people. We are not going to just outscore anybody. We have to hold [opponents] under 40 percent [from the field].”

USC begins Pac-10 competition against preseason conference favorite Washington on December 29 at 7:30 p.m.

“We want to win every single game in our league,” O’Neill said. “Will we win every game? I doubt it. But we are going to play hard, and I am convinced of that now. I have a lot of confidence that I did not have early on.”