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USC basketball: Leftovers from the Trojans' 65-57 upset of No. 10 Arizona

February 24, 2011 | 11:36 pm

USC knocked off No. 10 Arizona on Thursday night at the Galen Center, 65-57. 

The story most will be talking about is how USC's defense held Arizona superstar sophomore forward -- and former USC signee -- Derrick Williams to a season-low eight points, snapping his streak of 36 games scoring in double digits. 

That partly explains how well USC's defense played against Arizona, which beat USC in Tucson last month, 82-73. The Trojans held Arizona to 35.8% shooting from the field (19 for 53). Williams shot three for 11 and sophomore guard Lamont Jones, also a former USC signee, shot three for 12, scoring nine points.

For USC, the star was, as usual, junior forward Nikola Vucevic, who scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his Pacific 10 Conference-leading 17th double-double of the season.

USC junior guard Jio Fontan tied his season high with 21 points and senior forward Alex Stepheson added 12 points and 10 rebounds. 

It was USC's first win over a top-10 team since it beat No. 9 Tennessee, 77-55, on Dec. 19, 2009. USC improved to 3-1 against ranked teams this season, the other wins coming against Texas and at Tennessee. 

How it happened:

Vucevic nailed two free throws with 2 minutes 37 seconds left to tie the score, 56-56, and bring the crowd to its feet.

USC then blocked two key shots on Arizona’s next two possessions.

Vucevic was fouled with 58 seconds left and knocked down two more free throws. 

The Trojans closed it out with the crowd chanting “Overrated!” in the final seconds. 

USC outscored Arizona 15-3 down the stretch.

Some postgame quotes:

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill on what this win means for USC's postseason hopes:

"It's right now up to us. Everybody controls their destiny when they get to the Pac-10 tournament, obviously. You win, you stay. You lose, you go home. We have a lot of work left to do, but you can at least see maybe there's a little hope left at the end of the tunnel if you can keep playing hard and playing well and taking care of your business, that you can keep playing after the Pac-10 tournament."

O'Neill on USC senior guard Marcus Simmons:

"He's the defensive player of the year, not just in the league, but in the country. He's the best one-on-one defender in the whole country. I don't care who else is out there."

O'Neill on how USC defended Williams:

"We really loaded up to him when he caught [the ball]. We got in his airspace when he was shooting threes. You can't guard him alone. We don't have a matchup for him. No disrespect to any of our guys. ... What we wanted to do is play him hard with our team defense, which we did."

O'Neill on Arizona:

"They're a top-10 team. We played well. Winning is difficult when you're rebuilding. Thank God Nik was back. He's a pleasure to coach. He's made a tremendous improvement. He's young and has a long way to go. 

Vucevic on facing Williams:

"Derrick Williams is the best player in the Pac-10. We did a great job as a team stopping him. Alex Stepheson did a great job guarding him even though it was a mismatch."

Vucevic on facing better teams:

"We get more fired up for better teams. I don't know why. That's not the way it should be. In Tucson, we didn't show who we really were. So we wanted to come out today, play hard and get the win."

Vucevic on where USC goes from here: 

"This one means the most for our confidence. Now we have three wins in a row we can build on and get a better position to make the NCAA tournament.”

Williams, a former La Mirada High star, on coming back to USC:

"It was nice to be home and play in front of family and friends. It has nothing to do with nerves or anything like that. I didn't put up better numbers. There are nights like that and we aren't loaded at every position to make up for it."

Williams on the loss:

"I think it was good that we lost. We were getting too big-headed and we needed to come back to earth. It was good for us."

Williams on USC:

"They're a great team and their record may not show it, but they are really good."

Williams on Vucevic:

"Vucevic is a really great player. He's top five in the league and a definite NBA guy. He averages 19-10, that's better than me. He should get more credit. 

Arizona Coach Sean Miller on the loss: 

"This is the hard part about the stretch run of the season. You earn all the praise and you get it, but you forget here are some really hungry teams waiting for you. I credit 'SC, their defense was great. Vucevic is one of the best full-court players I've seen. But it comes down to the fact that we had two assists on 19 field goals. That's not going to get it done."

More Miller on the loss:

"Nobody on our staff thought this was going to be easy. We got outscored 15-3 down the stretch and we did a lot of things that are not characteristic of our team. But credit USC, they played a really strong game. It 's alarming to have two assists. We had some questionable drives and shots, but it comes back to the two assists." 

Miller on Derrick Williams:

"Derrick Williams had a tough night, but every guy has a night like that. He needed our team to take the pressure off him and we didn't do that. They played him really well, and it paid off."

Miller also was not pleased with Arizona guard Lamont Jones and his two drives to the basket near the end of the game. Both resulted in blocked shots, the first by USC senior forward Alex Stepheson, the second off the backboard by USC senior guard Marcus Simmons

“When you drive at the end of the game and you create a crowd, the answer is to pass," Miller said. "When you shoot it and it gets smashed off the board, you have to question the shot. We had some questionable shots and decisions, but again it goes to two assists on 19 field goals.”

-- Baxter Holmes