Balanced USC pulls away from No. 18 SIU in second half

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Hold the Mayo.

Southern California coach Tim Floyd did just that, keeping freshman sensation O.J. Mayo out of the starting lineup for the first time this season.

Floyd sat out Taj Gibson, too, claiming he wanted to give other players a chance to start.

The coach's experiment didn't last long, and Mayo and Gibson returned to help USC blow out Southern Illinois (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) in the second half of a 70-45 victory in the inaugural Anaheim Classic title game Sunday night.

"O.J. and Taj have gotten a tremendous amount of attention," Floyd said. "We have a lot of guys who can play. It's a big deal to players and media who starts. It's all part of team and these guys get it."

Mayo and Gibson were replaced by freshman Angelo Johnson and junior Keith Wilkinson for the first time in six games.

"It wasn't that big of a deal," Gibson said. "It was all for the good of the team."

Mayo said he found out at practice earlier Sunday that he wouldn't start. He was named most outstanding player in the event that attracted a couple dozen NBA scouts to watch him.

The Trojans were led by another freshman, Davon Jefferson, who scored 18 points. He had scoring sprees of eight and six points in each half in his third game since returning from a preseason injury to his left knee. He made 8-of-11 free throws.

Dwight Lewis added 14 points, Mayo 13, Gibson 10 and Daniel Hackett had 10 assists for USC (5-1). Mayo was in double figures for the sixth time, the most by a USC freshman since Tom Lewis did so in his first nine games of the 1985-86 season.

Randal Falker led the cold-shooting Salukis (3-1) with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He and starters Bryan Mullins and Tony Boyle along with Joshua Bone were in foul trouble much of the second half.

"They had a terrific game plan defensively," Salukis coach Chris Lowery said. "We panicked and some of our veteran guys acted in ways we've not seen from them. We passed up so many shots from guys that need to shoot."

The Trojans have won five in a row since opening the season with a stunning loss to Mercer that dropped them out of the Top 25. Having disposed of the Salukis, the Trojans play ranked teams Oklahoma, Kansas and Memphis in their next three games.

"Our guys had a concerted effort on the defensive end," Floyd said. "We created an awful lot of offense off our defense. We're really proud of that win. We handled their pressure, which is what they're known for."

Southern Illinois won its first three games by an average of 18.7 points. This time, they were blown out by more than that.

"That's what happens when you don't get back," Lowery said. "It got handed to us in a way that hasn't happened in a long time."

USC doesn't have a senior on its roster, but the Trojans played poised against an experienced Southern Illinois team that reached the round of 16 in last season's NCAA Tournament. USC was quicker too, beating the Salukis in transition and then forcing them to shoot from the perimeter, where Southern Illinois hit just 33 percent.

"We played well as a team and everybody executed on defense," Jefferson said. "We had to take advantage of our athleticism and run."

Mayo and Gibson entered with 13 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half and had an immediate impact. Mayo scored to draw the Trojans within two, while Gibson blocked Falker at the other end.

"We wanted to limit Falker's touches because he makes plays for everyone else," Floyd said. "If we could keep it out of the paint they would have to shoot jumpers."

The Trojans twice trailed by five early in the game, but once Mayo and Gibson got going, they helped USC outscore the Salukis 27-10 to end the half ahead 35-23.

Jefferson scored eight points in a row, including a dunk that began with Mayo's pass and ended with the crowd roaring. Mayo's 3-pointer ended the half and gave USC its largest lead, while most of Gibson's effort was on the defensive end.

"Angelo set a great pick and O.J. gave me a pretty pass," Jefferson said.

The Trojans pulled away in the second half, when the Salukis got no closer than seven points. Lewis dominated a 15-0 run with six straight points that extended USC's lead to 61-37.

USC won all three of its games in the eight-team tournament, with its closest a 57-53 win over Miami of Ohio on Friday.

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