LOS ANGELES -- The Kansas Jayhawks won’t remember their 63-47 victory over Southern California at the Galen Center as the night they came together as a team in their first road game of the season.
USC, which has done enough so far this season to take all of the glitz and glamor out of Tinseltown, didn’t provide enough of a challenge for No. 12 KU to make that claim.
But the Jayhawks, now 8-3, have every right to consider Thursday the night they took advantage of the gifts given them by a poor, probation-ridden Trojan team and headed home for the holidays with a renewed sense of optimism after losing to Davidson on Monday night.
“We had to win tonight,” KU coach Bill Self said. “There was no other choice. Davidson’s a good team, but to let that one get away was totally I wouldn’t say unforgiveable but it was up there close. That was very disappointing in how that went down in Kansas City.”
Still, to see this win as anything other than the result that absolutely should have occurred for KU – given the talent levels of these two teams – would be a sign one has already had too much eggnog. Road wins are always rewarding, but the Trojans simply made this too easy for the Jayhawks, who could have used more of a tune-up for places like Manhattan, Columbia, Mo., and Stillwater, Okla.
USC, now 5-8, had as many turnovers – 13 – as points in the first half. The 22 times the Trojans miraculously got off a shot, they only made five for a mark of 23 percent.
Self was willing to give the Jayhawks most of the credit, though.
“Mr. Iba would have been proud of the first half,” Self said, referring to his mentor at Oklahoma State, the legendary Henry Iba. “We guarded them great the first half. We needed that.”
The Galen Center began the night about three-fourths full, and nearly half of those were wearing crimson and blue. USC would never come close to enlivening its fans, who were too busy celebrating the announced return of junior Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Barkley to pay much attention anyway.
The biggest cheer of the night from USC fans came when a student wearing a Trojan helmet made a free throw at halftime and won a pair of Nikes. USC’s famed cheerleaders, the “song girls,” became mute girls. When the Trojans’ pep band played the war chant as USC left the floor for halftime, it felt like Christmas charity.
And this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Earlier this season, USC led Cal-Poly 20-13 at halftime. The Trojans lost 42-36.
USC may be a bad basketball team, but Kansas deserves credit for not playing to the Trojans’ level and exiting L.A. with an easy win.
KU built a 22-12 lead with a 9-0 run fueled by transition buckets by Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. KU built on its 25-13 halftime lead in the second half thanks to a six-point burst from Robinson that put the Jayhawks up 52-32. Conner Teahan finished USC off with back-to-back threes to give KU a 62-42 lead, and, with 2 minutes left, the Jayhawks’ fans began to sing the “Rock Chalk” chant.
From the opening tip, there was never any doubt they’d be serenading a winning team in blue. The Jayhawks’ statistics won’t wow anybody – they shot 42 percent from the floor and had 15 assists and 16 turnovers – but they did what had to be done.
“It was definitely one of those games,” Taylor said. “It was slow. The atmosphere was pretty mediocre. We knew it was going to be one of those games. Coach prepared us well for it.”
Taylor had a strong night with 10 points and nine assists (with just two turnovers). Johnson had 14 points and four rebounds. Teahan tossed in 13 points.