USC Falls To Fresno State, 71-68

Dec. 8, 2004

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Mustafa Al-Sayyad scored 18 points and Fresno Statestayed undefeated with a 71-68 victory over Southern California on Wednesdaynight.

The Bulldogs (5-0) beat the Trojans (2-3) for the first time in Los Angeles,where the teams hadn't played each other since 1929. Two years ago, FresnoState also started 5-0 and won the WAC regular season title.

Saia was named interim coach on Monday when Henry Bibby was fired after nineseasons, including three trips to the NCAA tournament. Saia had no priorDivision I head coaching experience, although he was a well-traveled assistant.He spent seven seasons as an assistant at UCLA before leaving in 2003 whencoach Steve Lavin was fired. Saia was a Fresno State assistant from 1990-94.

Rory O'Neil led USC with 15 points and Errick Craven added 14.

Neither team led by more than five points in the second half. Tied at 66,Ja'Vance Coleman hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 69-66 lead with 40seconds left. After freshman Gabe Pruitt missed, O'Neil scored on the putbackto draw the Trojans within one with 8 seconds left.

After a timeout, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball and Pruitt fouled DominiqueWhite, who made both free throws for a 71-68 lead. The Trojans lost the ballwhen Craven was called for traveling. O'Neil was forced to foul Coleman, whomissed both. Pruitt raced downcourt and launched a 3-pointer that hit thebackboard as time expired.

Al-Sayyad had two consecutive baskets, including a dunk, in the final 2:13when the Bulldogs clung to a two-point lead.

Fresno State came into the game averaging 79 points. It was just the secondtime in five games the Bulldogs were held under 80.

In the first half, USC led by 10 before Fresno State ran off 11 straightpoints, six by Al-Sayyad, to lead 32-31 at the break.

Los Angeles Clippers rookie Shaun Livingston, who went directly from highschool to the NBA, attended the game.

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