A year ago in Lawrence, Kan., the USC men’s basketball team was narrowly edged by the host Jayhawks by two points following a late 3-pointer from guard Josh Selby with 26 seconds left in the game.
Thursday’s rematch wasn’t as close.
USC finished with a season-low 13 points in the first half before eventually falling to No. 12 Kansas, 63-47, in front of a crowd of an announced crowd of 6,431 at the Galen Center.
“The stage was a bit big for our guys,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We looked slow. We looked bad. And we didn’t shoot well.”
The Trojans (5-8) stumbled out of the gate, shooting just 23 percent from the field in addition to 13 turnovers in the opening half. No player finished with more than four points, and no player scored a field goal in the last five minutes of the half.
“We turned the ball over way too much and our defense was soft,” junior forward Aaron Fuller said. “We didn’t match their intensity. That’s why we were blown out.”
Kansas closed the first half on a 14-3 run, building a 12-point halftime lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Trojans, who would finish with 18 turnovers – the most since their season opener against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 11.
Trailing, USC relied heavily on Fuller in the second half, as he finished with a game-high 19 points – 15 coming in the final 20 minutes of the contest. It was also a season-high for the 6-foot-6 forward, who collected 19 points during a Nov. 22 contest against Morgan State.
“We were really trying to establish an inside game,” Fuller said. “I got it going in the second half so [O’Neill] kept wanting to feed me the ball.”
Outside of Fuller’s efforts, however, USC couldn’t keep pace with Kansas, which saw four of its players finish in double-figures, including Naismith Award candidate forward Thomas Robinson, who finished with a near-double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore guard Maurice Jones, who led USC in scoring with 15.6 points per game entering the contest, finished with seven points over 36 minutes.
Perhaps, even more frustrating for O’Neill, sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon was held scoreless until about six minutes left to play in the second half. He would finish with only one basket.
“He’s a developing young player,” O’Neill said of Dedmon, who also finished with four fouls and just two rebounds. “He’s got to play harder. If you’re not getting points, you have to get more offensive rebounds. It’s going to take him time. He’s not ready.”
Dedmon, who has been in foul trouble several games this season and played just 20 minutes Thursday, expressed similar sentiments.
“I have to play aggressive without fouling,” Dedmon said. “I have to learn how to do that.”
The Trojans are not scheduled to practice until Monday, and they do not play again until Dec. 29, when they open Pac-12 play at California at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. The Golden Bears (10-2) are undefeated in nine games at home this season.
Following another road matchup at Stanford on New Year’s Eve, USC will return to the Galen Center on Jan. 5 to host Arizona State at 7:30 p.m.