USC 69, Oklahoma State 54
Friday, March 16th 2001, 12:00 am
News On 6
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Now comes the hard part for Oklahoma State.
Until now, the Cowboys had basketball to help them get through the grief of a Jan. 27 plane crash that killed two teammates and eight other members of their traveling party.
Now, their season is over, ended emphatically by Southern California in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday. The Trojans routed Oklahoma State 69-54, using a huge first-half run to put the game out of reach.
Coach Eddie Sutton knows that without the support of games and practice, the Cowboys' grief will be more difficult than ever.
``We'll have to keep really close tabs on them,'' Sutton said. ``That's why it's good we have spring break now. They can go home to their loved ones. I think that will help them heal up.''
For Fredrik Jonzen, who led Oklahoma State with 17 points, the end of the season is something of a relief.
``I think all of us are tired right now,'' he said. ``But it's kind of hard to know exactly how we feel. It'll take a little while to reflect on it. I think we all need a bit of a break from basketball.''
USC made sure that happened sooner rather than later.
Led by Sam Clancy and Jeff Trepagnier, the Trojans went on a first-half run of 14-0 that extended first to 23-2 and then to 29-4, turning the game into a blowout.
By halftime, the Trojans (22-9) led 48-19, a lead that was the largest of the game.
``That was the best 20 minutes we've played since I've been coaching USC,'' Henry Bibby said. ``The defense was flawless. It was picture perfect.''
Clancy led USC with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Trepagnier finished with 17 and Brandon Granville had 14.
USC dominated the backboards, rarely allowing Oklahoma State more than one shot each trip down the floor. The Trojans held a 26-16 rebounding edge at the half and 45-36 for the game.
The Cowboys' task was further complicated by some miserable shooting. They made just nine of 26 shots and missed nine of 10 free throws in the first half.
Brian Scalabrine, who scored 11 points, shrugged off the suggestion the Trojans might be jittery in their first tournament game. ``That's how we play when we're nervous,'' he said. ``We'll be real nervous Saturday, too.''
Wearing black patches on their jerseys to remember those who died in the crash, the Cowboys hoped to put the tragedy behind them. But they looked distracted and disorganized and USC took advantage of every Oklahoma State miss and every mistake.
``We send our blessing to Oklahoma State and what they've been though this year,'' Bibby said. ``I give that team the utmost respect. It shows how tough they are and how they persevered this year.''
The rout started early, with USC getting consecutive three-point plays by Trepangnier and Clancy to begin the game. Jonzen, Oklahoma State's tallest starter at 6-foot-10 and second leading scorer, was charged with both fouls in the first minute of play, putting the Cowboys in immediate trouble.
It just got worse after that.
Clancy and Trepagnier had two baskets apiece in the 14-0 run, and after Maurice Baker scored for Oklahoma State, USC went on another 11-0 streak, with Clancy scoring six points and Trepagnier getting five.
Oklahoma State tried to regroup in the second half and 13-straight points cut the lead to 58-44 with eight minutes remaining. But USC's huge early margin was far too much to overcome.