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December 8, 2009

USC picks up sloppy win

Travels, charges and bad passes - oh my!

After dropping three-straight, it was important for USC to just get a win, and in that regard, the team accomplished its goal, beating Sacramento State 51-36 Tuesday at the Galen Center.

While USC head coach Kevin O'Neill was happy with the end result, the process of getting win. No. 3 certainly was less than ideal.

"We were filming a blooper real. We were just faking all that out there we hope," O'Neill said. I'm glad we won after losing three in a row, but it certainly wasn't pretty."

USC (3-4) finished with 25 turnovers on the night, bringing their total over the past four games to 78.

"It's not like they were pressuring us or anything," O'Neill said. "Inexplicable is the only word I can think of.

"...There's really no excuse for some of the things we do."

Dwight Lewis led all scores with 16 points, Nikola Vucevic added 14 points and 15 rebounds and Alex Stepheson finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

But in the case of Stepheson and Vucevic, turnovers overshadowed solid efforts. Stepheson was the worst offender, coughing the ball up eight times. Vucevic committed five turnovers, second most on the team.

"One person starts turning it over, and then it's everyone," Stepheson said. "I led the team, and I know I have to get better at that. We just have to get after it. We have to really concentrate in practice on not turning the ball over."

But despite the ugly night on offense, the Trojan defense executed its game plan on the defensive side of the ball. USC held Sacramento State (4-6) to just 23 percent shooting from the field. And when the Hornets weren't missing shots off the rim, it seemed like Stepheson and the Trojans were there swatting them away.

USC's 12 blocks tied the school record for most in a game.

"We had to make up for the turnovers somewhere," Stepheson said. "We've been playing good defense, and the best way to get over turnovers is to get stops. That's what we did."

And it's a good thing, too, because at this point in the season, O'Neill doesn't think his team can win many games relying on the offense.

"That's are only chance," he said. "We have to defend."

Things didn't start well for USC, as the Trojans turned the ball over 15 times in the first 20 minutes. But despite the turnover deluge, USC led 24-16 at the break, thanks largely in part to the Hornets' disastrous shooting. Sacramento State shot just 18.8 percent in the half.

When USC actually hung on to the basketball, USC did some nice things offensively. Lewis got off to a quick start scoring two baskets and assisting two more as USC jumped out to a 14-4 lead.

Lewis played just six minutes in the Trojans' 79-53 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday, and the temporary benching seemed to have made an impact.

"I've been trying to really work on staying within the flow of the offense," Lewis said. "When I need to create plays for the team, I can do that too. I think I did an OK job of that tonight."

USC couldn't stretch things out though, as the Hornets hung around largely because of the Trojans' sloppy play on offense.

"Coming off of a tough road trip, we just wanted to get a win at any cost," Stepheson said. "It was sloppy, but it was still a win."

The Trojans continue their non-conference slate Friday night when they host Idaho State. The game's set to tip at 7:30 at the Galen Center.


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