LOS ANGELES -- Ten seconds into the second half of Wednesday's USC-Cal State Fullerton contest, the visiting Titans tied the score at 32 and Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill looked exasperated -- like what he told his players at halftime hadn't gotten through at all.
That soon changed, though, as USC quickly took control of the game. The final 19 minutes and 50 seconds saw USC's top two scorers -- freshman guard Maurice Jones and junior forward Nikola Vucevic -- outscore the Titans' entire team by seven points as USC rolled to an 81-54 victory before 3,821 fans at the Galen Center.
The score from then on? Jones and Vucevic 29, Cal State Fullerton 22. The Trojans more than doubled the Titans' output in the second half, 49-24.
"We didn't play hard in the first half at all," said Vucevic, who recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds. "I think we were kind of easing into the game."
Jones, who struggled on the team's weekend trip to Springfield, Mass. to play Bradley and New Mexico St., looked like a different player than the one who torched Santa Clara with 29 points just nine days prior.
The difference? A strained muscle in his back that forced him to miss Wednesday's shootaround and made his trademark hard-driving penetrations into the lane look tentative.
Defensively, the Trojans limited the Titans to 35-percent shooting and held CSF leading scorer Orane Chin to four points on 1-of-6 shooting. He had averaged 20 points per game before Wednesday.
Player of the game: Jones had a bad first half, with as many turnovers (three) as points. But his second half was spectacular, as he shot 7-of-10 from the field to finish with 20 points and five assists. He also had four steals in the final 20 minutes.
"As he goes right now, we're gonna go," O'Neill said. "Especially on the offensive end. He got some things going defensively, made some good plays."
Stat of the game: Vucevic had five assists for the third consecutive game. Through six games this year, he's averaging twice as many assists as he did last season as part of his singled-out effort to work on his passing game this season.
Said Vucevic: "I think I can pass the ball pretty well, and K.O. knows that."
The 6-foot-10 forward also said a better-developed eye for the pass would be good for his resume for the next level.
"I'm trying to be as complete of a player as I can, so I'm trying to add something every year," he said. "This year, I think it's going to be the assists, try to pass the ball more."
Quote of the game: Forward Alex Stepheson, who had his best game of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds, was asked if the team is becoming more able to run with Jones as the speedy guard often attempts to push the ball.
"A little bit," he said. "Six games into it, we're a lot more accustomed to it than we were the first game. For the most part, everybody knows that when he's in the game, expect the unexpected and always have your hands ready, because he could find you anywhere."
Yes, there were still times in Wednesday's game where it looked like Jones had to wait for the rest of his teammates to catch up to him.
Notes: USC will depart for Lincoln, Neb. -- by way of Minneapolis, where the team flight will have a layover on Thanksgiving morning -- and eat holiday dinner in the team hotel. The Trojans will play Nebraska on Saturday at 5 p.m., the same time as the football team's game against Notre Dame. ...Freshmen Garrett Jackson and Bryce Jones each had to come out of the game in the second half with leg cramps. Jackson actually left the bench late and headed to the locker room, but was fine afterward, a USC spokesman said.
O'Neill was pleased with his team's second-half performance. See what he had to say after the game:
Vucevic talked afterward about Jones' play, his own attempts to pass the ball, and more. See what he said: