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USC basketball: Washington tops Trojans in overtime, 73-67, to win Pacific 10 Conference opener

December 29, 2010 | 10:21 pm


Washington was the preseason pick to win the Pacific 10 Conference. USC was picked sixth.

But the Huskies hardly looked the part against a creampuff schedule.

The Trojans, on the other hand, surprised many by toppling two ranked teams in their last five games, and argued that they're legitimate contenders for the league title.

And in the league opener for both teams Thursday night, Washington's high-powered offense was held in check but mustered just enough to beat the Trojans in overtime, 73-67. 

With USC trailing, 60-58, with 2 minutes47 seconds left in overtime, USC senior forward Alex Stepheson missed two crucial free throws, airballing the first, to give Washington momentum.

The Huskies responded with four straight points to put themselves ahead by six.

Those points came courtesy of guard Venoy Overton, who made a one-handed floater in the lane with 1:57 left, and two free throws by forward Matt Bryan-Amaning.

The Trojans (8-6) chipped away  but weren't able to retake the lead, giving Washington (9-3) its fifth straight road win dating  to last season, a school record. 

The second half was largely a slugfest to overtime, though USC wouldn't have been in the game but for junior forward Nikola Vucevic.

The 6-foot-10 Serb, who scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season, scored seven straight points to end regulation for USC, to help send the game to overtime.

The Trojans still had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but junior guard Jio Fontan elected not to call a timeout when he caught a rebound with 6.5 seconds left. He never got off a shot, though. 

Fontan struggled after his hot three-game start that earned Pac-10 player of the week honors, scoring just 14 points on four-for-14 shooting.

USC shot 24 of 32 from the free-throw line, Vucevic making all 14 of his attempts. Washington shot 22 of 31 from the charity stripe.

Overall, Washington had five players score in double figures, led by guards Isaiah Thomas and Terrence Ross, who each scored 18.   

USC’s always stingy defense stymied the Huskies’ point-a-second offense early, the Trojans jumping out to a 16-4 run to start the game, mostly on steals-turned-fast-break slams.

That run helped quiet the Galen Center, which Washington fans turned into a home away from home for their Huskies, barking chants all game long -- including "Just like football" in the final seconds of overtime -- during their likely stopover before continuing on to San Diego for Thursday's Holiday Bowl between Washington and Nebraska.

But USC's lead didn’t last when Washington switched from a man-to-man defense to zone, the Trojans’ kryptonite.

From that point, Washington sped to a 14-3 run to close within one and took its first lead, 28-26, when Ross nailed a three-point jumper with 1:03 before halftime. 

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: USC's Alex Stepheson gets double teamed by Washington's Terrence Ross, right, and Matthew-Bryan Amaning on Wednesday at the Galen Center. Credit: Christine Cotter / Associated Press.