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Freshmen power Trojans past N. Dakota

December 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Taj Gibson didn't need to be told about his sub-par first-half performance against North Dakota State, although coach Tim Floyd did mention it to him. The 6-foot-9 junior did something about it after halftime.

Gibson scored six of his 10 points, grabbed 16 of his 18 rebounds and blocked all three of his shots in the second half Saturday, leading Southern California to a 61-57 victory over the Bison.

Freshmen DeMar DeRozan and Leonard Washington came up with career-high scoring performances for the Trojans (7-3), who scored the game's final five points to overcome the Bison and raise their record at Galen Center to 6-0 this season.

"I'm a better player than that," Gibson said regarding his first-half performance. "The offensive side wasn't working for me. I was more focused on the boards."

Led by Gibson, who matched his career high in rebounding, the Trojans won the battle of the backboards 27-10 in the second half for a 38-26 overall advantage. USC won despite committing 20 turnovers to 12 for North Dakota State, with Gibson committing eight of those turnovers.

"It was just one of those games, I was turning the ball over more than I should," he said. "I didn't pout about it. I tried to do other things."

Floyd said he thought Gibson was embarrassed that the North Dakota State big men got the better of him in the first half. They certainly didn't in the final 20 minutes.

"They did a nice job on him defensively," Floyd said. "It was one of those games where they took away a lot of what we like to do."

The Trojans won despite missing all eight of their 3-point shots while the Bison were 7-of-23 from beyond the arc. USC shot 17-of-21 from the foul line while North Dakota State was 8-of-14 including 1-of-6 in the second half.

"We played good defense," Floyd said. "I thought our ability to get to the foul line and make our free throws was a key to the win."

DeRozan made the go-ahead basket to cap a career-high 18-point performance, and Washington added 17 points, also a career best.

"We couldn't have won without the two freshmen," Floyd said.

DeRozan shot 8-of-11 and matched his career high with six rebounds as well.

"Every shot I took, I felt comfortable," he said. "I'm just trying to take my time, every game, every practice, learn as much as I can. I think it's working out well for me. It's real different; just six months ago, I was graduating (from Compton High). This is a different level of basketball than I've played before."

Daniel Hackett added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists for USC, which entertains Georgia Tech on Monday night and Oral Roberts next Sunday before beginning Pac-10 play Jan. 2 at Oregon.

Brett Winkelman led North Dakota State (6-4) with 17 points and eight rebounds. Ben Woodside added 14 points and nine assists and Mike Nelson scored 12 for the Bison.

"It was nice to be able to hang around with a squad like SC," North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips said. "We expect to compete against everybody we play against. We're disappointed we didn't get a victory. They certainly controlled the tempo. I thought we played blow-for-blow with them in their style of play."

The Bison entered averaging 89.4 points per game, with a previous season-low of 68 points. They began the week ranked third nationally in NCAA Division I in scoring.

"When you rely on jump shots, as we tend to, you're going to hit stretches where you don't make them," Phillips said regarding his team's 36.8 percent shooting effort. The Bison entered shooting 50.7 percent this season.

Regarding Gibson, Phillips said: "We won't see a guy like that all year. He bothered the heck out of us with his defensive presence."

A basket by Woodside with 1:47 remaining gave the Bison a 57-56 lead, but DeRozan's jumper from the foul line 25 seconds later put the Trojans ahead for good.

Woodside missed a baseline jumper with 25 seconds to play that would have given North Dakota State the lead. Two foul shots by Washington and another by Gibson completed the scoring.

Woodside scored the final six points of the first half to give the Bison a 34-29 lead. They were on top 48-43 midway through the second half before the Trojans rallied.

Neither team led by more than six points in their first meeting. The game was the second for North Dakota State against a Pac-10 team since the Bison moved to Division I four years ago. They lost at California 86-72 last December.


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