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USC dunks its way to 82-59 win over Santa Clara

LOS ANGELES (AP) Nick Rakocevic took advantage of his first start of the season, helping USC dominate as part of a new-look trio of big men in the starting lineup.

Rakocevic, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu all had double-doubles to lead USC to an 82-59 win over Santa Clara on Thursday night. They combined for 57 points and 31 rebounds

They got to the rim with ease and Santa Clara never had an answer.

''It's hard to guard three 7-footers,'' Rakocevic said.

Rakocevic (6-11), Metu (6-11) and Boatwright (6-10) aren't quite 7-foot but they sure played that way.

USC (5-3) snapped a three-game losing streak and did it in fun fashion with dunk after dunk after dunk.

''We've been trying to tell coach,'' Metu said of starting three big men. ''We've been trying to convince him.''

The move was made more out of necessity. Rakocevic was in the starting lineup because Elijah Stewart was late for a few things and as punishment did not start, according to USC coach Andy Enfield.

Boatwright had a game-high 21 points and added 11 rebounds. Metu had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Rakocevic had his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

''I thought they did a good job rebounding the ball and getting in their stance,'' Enfield said. ''Santa Clara spread us out with four or five guards. ... Tonight we saw flashes of guys who were more like their normal selves than they had been the last couple of games.''

Guard Jordan McLaughlin has carried the load this season and continued to make plays for others. He had nine points and 10 assists. Everyone else was grooving. But Thursday's win was all about the big men.

Josip Vrankic scored 15 points for Santa Clara (3-7), which lost its second straight game. Santa Clara shot just 31.3 percent from the field.

The Trojans started the game with a 10-0 run and never looked back. Santa Clara missed its first five shots before Shaquille Walters scored a basket and was fouled for a 3-point play. The Broncos never really pressured the Trojans and trailed 37-22 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Rakocevic went streaking down the lane uncontested and threw down a two-handed dunk. He was called for a technical foul after a layup extended USC's lead to 50-35. The technical foul was one of few miscues for the Trojans.

''I felt I got fouled on that one and screamed, `And one.' That was it,'' Rakocevic said. ''I had to live with it. Definitely not trying to get any more of those this season.''

Rakocevic is usually playing in foul trouble, and that's something he is trying to be more cognizant of this season.

''We try to tell him in practice. Obviously, he doesn't listen,'' Metu said with a laugh.

Rakocevic and Metu were having fun, and that's what winning does for a team. USC's losing streak spanned nearly three weeks. They had to stew in those three losses.

''It felt good,'' Rakocevic said. ''Losing three in a row was tough. Hopefully, now we get on a little bit of a streak and guys who are in slumps try to figure it out. We're looking forward to Sunday (against UC Santa Barbara).''

USC's block party continued. The Trojans rank 23rd in the country with 5.7 blocks per game and swatted another 10.

Metu threw down a two-handed dunk in the second half with no Santa Clara players around, presumably because no one wanted to be on the wrong end of a poster. It drew the praise of Rakocevic, who was jumping up and down on the bench. Both players got to the rim with ease and earned plenty of style points on dunks when they got there. Boatwright dunked, too.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: The Broncos had another difficult test on the road and it was good preparation for the West Coast Conference play, which starts Dec. 28 against Pepperdine.

USC: The Trojans had high hopes as they started the season with a bang at 4-0 but then lost to Texas A&M, SMU and Oklahoma. USC had a long shot attempt at the buzzer against the Sooners but it didn't fall. They didn't need any last-second heroics in this one. ... USC got started on a good note to kick off a busy stretch of six games in 12 days. Prior to that, USC played just seven games in 34 days.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: hosts Valparaiso on Monday.

USC: hosts UC Santa Barbara on Sunday.

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Key Players
H. Caruso
J. McLaughlin
33.1 Min. Per Game 33.1
14.4 Pts. Per Game 14.4
6.3 Ast. Per Game 6.3
4.3 Reb. Per Game 4.3
51.3 Field Goal % 48.7
33.3 Three Point % 48.3
90.9 Free Throw % 80.0
  Defensive rebound by Shaqquan Aaron 11.0
  Matt Turner missed 3-pt. jump shot 13.0
  Defensive rebound by Henrik Jadersten 27.0
  Victor Uyaelunmo missed 2nd of 2 free throws 27.0
+ 1 Victor Uyaelunmo made 1st of 2 free throws 27.0
  Shooting foul on Henrik Jadersten 27.0
+ 1 Matt Turner made 2nd of 2 free throws 46.0
+ 1 Matt Turner made 1st of 2 free throws 46.0
  Shooting foul on Victor Uyaelunmo 46.0
+ 2 Victor Uyaelunmo made layup 1:00
  Defensive rebound by Jordan Usher 1:09
Team Stats
Points 59 82
Field Goals 20-64 (31.3%) 30-61 (49.2%)
3-Pointers 9-32 (28.1%) 6-16 (37.5%)
Free Throws 10-14 (71.4%) 16-21 (76.2%)
Total Rebounds 27 52
Offensive 7 16
Defensive 18 34
Team 2 2
Assists 12 21
Steals 4 2
Blocks 0 10
Turnovers 4 10
Fouls 16 16
Technicals 0 0
15 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST
21 PTS, 11 REB, 3 AST
12T
away team logo Santa Clara 3-7 223759
home team logo USC 5-3 374582
Team Stats
away team logo Santa Clara 3-7 68.2 PPG 35.2 RPG 13.4 APG
home team logo USC 5-3 76.3 PPG 38.5 RPG 16.2 APG
Key Players
13
J. Vrankic F 13.7 PPG 6.2 RPG 1.3 APG 52.0 FG%
25
B. Boatwright F 18.2 PPG 6.6 RPG 2.5 APG 47.4 FG%
Top Scorers
J. Vrankic F 15 PTS 8 REB 2 AST
B. Boatwright F 21 PTS 11 REB 3 AST
31.3 FG% 49.2
28.1 3PT FG% 37.5
71.4 FT% 76.2
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
J. Vrankic 15 8 2 4/10 3/7 4/5 4 29 1 0 1 3 5
K. Feagin 10 3 4 4/9 1/3 1/1 2 30 1 0 1 0 3
H. Caruso 7 4 0 2/8 1/4 2/3 3 29 0 0 1 1 3
J. Pugh 7 2 2 3/9 1/5 0/0 0 21 0 0 0 1 1
M. Hauser 3 0 4 1/7 1/6 0/0 2 30 1 0 0 0 0
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
J. Vrankic 15 8 2 4/10 3/7 4/5 4 29 1 0 1 3 5
K. Feagin 10 3 4 4/9 1/3 1/1 2 30 1 0 1 0 3
H. Caruso 7 4 0 2/8 1/4 2/3 3 29 0 0 1 1 3
J. Pugh 7 2 2 3/9 1/5 0/0 0 21 0 0 0 1 1
M. Hauser 3 0 4 1/7 1/6 0/0 2 30 1 0 0 0 0
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
S. Walters 9 4 0 4/10 0/1 1/1 2 30 0 0 1 0 4
M. Turner 8 0 0 2/7 2/5 2/4 0 20 1 0 0 0 0
E. Ndumanya 0 2 0 0/3 0/0 0/0 2 9 0 0 0 2 0
H. Jadersten 0 2 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 1 2 0 0 0 0 2
K. Healy - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Roche - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Sawyer - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Jasaitis - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 59 25 12 20/64 9/32 10/14 16 200 4 0 4 7 18
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
B. Boatwright 21 11 3 7/14 3/5 4/4 0 33 0 1 2 3 8
C. Metu 20 11 1 9/16 0/1 2/2 2 30 0 3 2 4 7
N. Rakocevic 16 10 1 6/9 0/0 4/7 5 18 0 2 1 6 4
J. McLaughlin 9 4 10 3/8 1/3 2/2 0 33 2 2 2 1 3
J. Mathews 6 5 2 2/5 2/3 0/0 3 28 0 1 1 1 4
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
B. Boatwright 21 11 3 7/14 3/5 4/4 0 33 0 1 2 3 8
C. Metu 20 11 1 9/16 0/1 2/2 2 30 0 3 2 4 7
N. Rakocevic 16 10 1 6/9 0/0 4/7 5 18 0 2 1 6 4
J. McLaughlin 9 4 10 3/8 1/3 2/2 0 33 2 2 2 1 3
J. Mathews 6 5 2 2/5 2/3 0/0 3 28 0 1 1 1 4
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
E. Stewart 4 1 2 1/4 0/2 2/2 1 21 0 1 0 1 0
V. Uyaelunmo 4 1 1 1/2 0/0 2/4 1 3 0 0 0 0 1
C. O'Bannon Jr. 2 2 0 1/2 0/1 0/0 2 11 0 0 0 0 2
K. Karis 0 0 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0
S. Aaron 0 3 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 1 10 0 0 0 0 3
J. Usher 0 2 1 0/0 0/0 0/0 1 10 0 0 2 0 2
D. Thornton - - - - - - - - - - - - -
H. Henderson - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Melton - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Fleming - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 82 50 21 30/61 6/16 16/21 16 200 2 10 10 16 34