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Defense lifts USC past Texas, Durant

The Baltimore Sun

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The blueprint for an upset was simple enough.

The Southern California players and coaches figured if they played tough defense and stayed close against favored Texas for the first 10 minutes, they could make a game of it.

The Trojans did better than that.

They broke to an early lead against the Longhorns - and their super-freshman Kevin Durant - and never looked back, rolling to an 87-68 victory in an East Regional second-round game at Spokane Arena.

"The first 10 minutes were critical," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "We were able to get a little confidence; we still have a new group that's trying to figure out if they really belong here or not."

USC had five players score in double figures. Daniel Hackett, who drew the tough duty of guarding Durant, still managed to score 20 points.

Durant finished with a game-high 30. He got some help from guard A.J. Abrams' 20 points, but the rest of the Longhorns faltered. Also, many of Durant's points came after the outcome was decided in the fifth-seeded Trojans' favor, and the fans were filing out early.

"You're not gong to get it done this time of year with just two guys doing it," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "And I'm disappointed in that."

Abrams said the Longhorns came out for the second half with intensity after trailing at the break, but "it just faded away."

The Trojans earned their way to the next round by focusing much of their defensive effort on Texas point guard D.J. Augustin, who finished with six points and could not get his team rolling offensively.

That explained the quick start for USC, which built a 10-point lead in the first five minutes.

Texas made a run at the end of the first half, Durant getting hot and Abrams scoring from three-point range to end a 10-2 run and shrink the lead to 34-27.

The Longhorns continued to chip away after halftime, closing to within four, but USC countered with a 19-3 run and Texas never drew close again.

Not only did the Trojans shoot better, 45 percent compared to 37 percent, but they also won the rebounding battle, 43-35.

"We're just playing great team ball right now," USC junior forward Nick Young said. "It's something we need to do going down the stretch in the NCAA tournament - hopefully we can keep it up."

Now, though, the challenge grows as USC (25-11) will next face top-seeded North Carolina (30-6) in an East Regional semifinal in East Rutherford, N.J.

"New Jersey, New Jersey, never been there," said Young, who led the Trojans with 22 points.

When asked whether his team was still unheralded, Young recalled how the team was second-to-last in the Pacific-10 Conference when he started his career.

"It was very hard, very tough," Young said. "We're still the underdog. Later on, in the future, SC will be one of those UCLAs or North Carolinas. The future is looking bright right now."

David Wharton writes for the Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times contributed to this article.

USC-Young 8-13 4-4 22, Gibson 4-11 9-14 17, Stewart 4-10 1-2 10, Hackett 7-10 4-4 20, Pruitt 2-8 5-6 10, Lewis 1-4 4-8 6, Austin 0-0 0-0 0, Wilkinson 1-3 0-0 2, Cromwell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 27-38 87. TEXAS-James 1-3 0-0 2, Durant 11-24 6-8 30, Abrams 7-14 2-2 20, Augustin 1-8 4-4 6, Mason 2-5 1-2 6, Lewis 0-5 0-0 0, Hill 0-0 0-0 0, Winder 2-4 0-0 4, Atchley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-64 13-16 68. Halftime-USC, 34-27. 3-point goals-USC 6-16 (Young 2-3, Hackett 2-4, Pruitt 1-3, Stewart 1-4, Lewis 0-2), Texas 7-28 (Abrams 4-7, Durant 2-9, Mason 1-2, Winder 0-2, Lewis 0-4, Augustin 0-4). Fouled out-Augustin. Rebounds-USC 43 (Gibson 14), Texas 35 (Durant 9). Assists-USC 13 (Pruitt 8), Texas 10 (Augustin 5). Total fouls-USC 16, Texas 27. A-11,551.

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