After a rough road trip that included double-digit losses at Texas and Georgia Tech the Trojans got back on track Tuesday night with a 51-36 win over the Sacramento State Hornets.
It was a much needed win for the Men of Troy but it wasn’t pretty.
“I am just happy we won,” USC head coach Kevin O’Neill said. “Anytime our team has more points than theirs I like it, regardless of how we get there.”
The Trojans cruised to a fairly easy victory, despite playing very sloppy on the offensive end and turning the ball over a season-high 25 times.
“It’s not like they were pressuring us,” O’Neill said. “It’s just inexplicable is the only word that I can think of right now.
“There is really no excuse for some of the things that we do.”
Forward Alex Stepheson, who is still working himself into game shape after missing the start of the season with a knee injury, committed a team-high 8 turnovers.
“It was a lot of good and a lot of bad tonight,” Stepheson said. “It seemed like once one person started turning it over, everybody started turning it over. It just got contagious.”
Stepheson and the Trojans made up for their sloppy offense with a tremendous effort on the defensive end of the court, holding Sacramento State to just 23 percent shooting from the field.
“I thought we did a good job on them defensively,” O’Neill said. “Our team defense was outstanding.”
Stepheson had 7 of the Trojans’ 12 blocked shots and also added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Trojans took a 24-16 lead into the half and put the game out of reach with a 16-0 run early in the second half behind the play of Dwight Lewis and Nikola Vucevic.
Lewis, who played just six minutes in the Trojans’ loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday, responded with a strong effort Tuesday, scoring a game-high 16 points and 5 rebounds.
“I thought he took better shots and I thought he was more engaged offensively,” O’Neill said. “For the most part, I thought he played really good basketball.”
Lewis added: “We needed a win. We had a bad taste in our mouth from this past weekend with those two losses. Coming back and getting a win today kind of makes us feel better and is better for team morale.”
After playing sparingly as a freshman, Vucevic has emerged as one of the Trojans’ most consistent performers this season. The 6-9 forward added another double-double on Tuesday, scoring 14 points to go along with 15 rebounds.
“I think Nicola is doing a heckuva of a job. He’s a guy that has some good games for us. He is pretty consistent. He is a double-double almost every time out.”
With the win the Trojans improve to 3-4 on the season. The Trojans next host Idaho State Friday night at the Galen Center.
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