USC Defeats Saint Mary's 69-63 For First Galen Center Win

Nov. 18, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- This time, Southern California didn't let avictory get away.

Lodrick Stewart scored 19 points and the Trojans defeated SaintMary's 69-63 Saturday for their first victory in the school's new$140 million arena with prize recruit O.J. Mayo looking on.

'Wins aren't coming easy in this building,' USC coach TimFloyd said. 'We're still growing and learning.'

Freshman Taj Gibson added 15 points, Dwight Lewis 12 and NickYoung 11 for the Trojans (1-1), who had lost their season opener toSouth Carolina in overtime Wednesday.

'We felt down after the South Carolina game and felt weshould've won,' said Gibson, who needed a stitch in his head aftera hard foul.

Mayo, considered the nation's top-rated prep recruit, watchedfrom a front-row seat during his first campus visit after signing anational letter of intent last Wednesday. The senior fromHuntington, W.Va., visited his future teammates at practice Friday.

'He's a great player,' Stewart said. 'He's going to come hereand help a lot.'

The Gaels (3-2) were led by reserve Tron Smith and Brett Collinswith 12 points each.

Mayo had to like what he saw from the Trojans early in thesecond half. They stretched an eight-point halftime lead to 41-26,with Stewart scoring six points in an 8-0 run.

But the momentum swung to the Gaels, whose 21-10 run got them to51-47 with five minutes remaining, helped by the Trojans committinga slew of their 21 turnovers.

'We got lazy with the ball, and they took it down and scored,'said Stewart, whose offense picked up in the second half afterhaving two points at the break.

'I came in here with my head down, but (Floyd) said, 'You'replaying great,' he said.

Three different Saint Mary's players had four points each in thespurt, capped by Todd Golden's three free throws after being fouledon a long-range shot.

'One glaring thing -- we've got to make some shots,' Gaelscoach Randy Bennett said. 'Our shot selection is not where itneeds to be.

Saint Mary's closed within three on a free throw by Omar Samhan.That was as close as the Gaels got the rest of the way, with thefinal minutes turning into a free-throw contest.

'That's the most athletic team we've played,' Bennett said.'They're big. It's a challenge scoring against them.'

USC is 8-0 against Saint Mary's dating to the start of theseries in 1932-33.

For the second straight game, there were plenty of empty seatsin Galen Center, USC's new home since moving from the aging LosAngeles Sports Arena, where they had played since 1959. The firstmen's game drew an announced crowd of 7,512, but only 4,127 attended Saturday, and the student sectionhad less than 75 people in it.

The basketball team had to compete with thousands of fanstailgating at the nearby Coliseum ahead of USC's highly anticipatedgame against California later in the day.

'We didn't expect a great crowd today because of football,'Floyd said. 'We have to earn that.'

Nearly 100 former Trojan basketball players -- all of whom hadbeen promised they would play in a new arena -- finally got theirchance at halftime. It wasn't pretty, though, as dozens of themmissed jumpers, free throws and layups, including Los AngelesLakers assistant Tex Winter and former Boston Celtics star BillSharman. Former NBA coach Paul Westphal sank his shot and wascheered.

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