USC coach Kevin O’Neill waited almost two years to break the streak, but as the old adage goes, all streaks are made to be broken.
The Trojans (15-12, 7-7), who hadn’t beaten back-to-back road opponents since former coach Tim Floyd’s squad defeated the Oregon schools on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 2008, took down the Stanford Cardinal 69-53 on Saturday night at Maples Pavilion, completing their two-game sweep of the Bay Area schools.
Coupled with Thursday night’s win over California 78-75, USC snapped their eight-game streak of road futility with the help of junior forward Nikola Vucevic’s double-double (19 points and 14 rebounds) and a rare burst of offensive consistency from senior Alex Stepheson, who scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field.
For the second straight night, USC played hard for the entire 40 minutes on the defensive end, limiting Stanford (13-13, 6-9) to 33 percent shooting and 17 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
After trailing 12-8 four minutes into the first half, the Trojans went on a 22-4 run over a nine-minute span and led at halftime 40-31.
Stanford’s junior forward Josh Owens, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, cut the gap to seven with a quick basket to the start the second half, but a 10-0 run sparked by a Stepheson dunk and Vucevic three-point shot pushed the lead up to 17, and the Trojans never looked back.
For the second straight game, senior guard Donte Smith started in place of freshman guard Maurice Jones.
The move paid off Saturday night too, as Smith and Jones provided scoring balance for USC’s offense, scoring 13 and 10 respectively.
In a losing effort, the Cardinal were led by Owens and freshman forward Josh Huestis’ play off the bench. Huestis put in a career-high 11 points in 19 minutes of action.
The win for USC not only ended their woes away from home, but put them in a tie for fourth place in the Pac-10 standings with Oregon, while Stanford dropped to eighth in the conference.
While dreams of dancing in March are still long shots for both teams, the top six teams from the conference get a bye in the first round of next month’s conference tournament at Staples Center.
USC returns home next week to face No. 13 Arizona (23-4, 12-2) at the Galen Center.
After their thrilling 87-86 win over Washington on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats sit alone atop the conference heading into their 7:30 p.m. contest with the Trojans on Thursday night.