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Trojans can Hackett: USC pulls off victory

first_imgThe Trojans, picked by the media to finish sixth in the Pacific-10 Conference and two years removed from a last-place season, advance to the Sweet 16 to face top-seeded North Carolina in East Rutherford, N.J., on Friday. It’s the first trip to the Sweet16 since 2001 and only the second since 1979 for USC (25-11), which broke the school record for victories in a season. “We’re not done yet,” Gabe Pruitt said. “There’s still many games left to be played, and we can win all of them.” What might be over is the college career of Durant, who is expected to be one of the top two picks in June’s NBA Draft. “I have a sour taste in my mouth from ending the season like this,” Durant said. “I kind of regret not playing as hard as I could today.” If it is his last game, it will be an unceremonious exit, thanks to Hackett and the Trojans, who dealt Texas its most lopsided loss this season. Durant, who averaged 25.7points this season, did get his 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, but they came from the outside – he made 2 of 9 3-point attempts – and he wasn’t able to set up teammates. Coach Tim Floyd said it was assistant Phil Johnson who devised the unique game plan to cover the 6-foot-9 Durant with the 6-5 Hackett and, when he went to the bench, 6-5 freshman Dwight Lewis. The move freed USC’s 6-9freshman forward, Taj Gibson, to rove underneath and stop penetration to the basket. When Durant did try to get inside, Gibson helped with a double team. Gibson finished with 17points and 14 rebounds. Durant is a tough player to defend because, despite his size, he has the ball-handling and shooting skills of a guard. “It’s hard to guard him with a bigger guy because, in the end, he wants to go off the dribble,” Johnson said. Hackett showed from the get-go that he was up to the challenge, allowing Durant just four points in the first eight minutes. “He was getting a little frustrated,” Gibson said of Durant. “We kept sending little guys at him all day, and he didn’t know what to do with them.” Hackett, starting for only the second time in 23 games, also provided a surprising scoring punch with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting. , drilled a 3-pointer on USC’s first trip down, and the Trojans never trailed. Nick Young led USC with 22points. All five starters scored in double figures. Texas had 50 of its 68 points from Durant and guard A.J.Abrams. The Longhorns (25-10) drew within four points in the first minute of the second half, but the Trojans answered with a 19-3 run. Young scored seven of those points, going high in the air for a one-handed dunk off a pass from Pruitt. “New Jersey, never been there,” Young said. “I’m excited about that.” Hackett, who graduated from St. John Bosco High of Bellflower a year early to enroll at USC after the death of point guard Ryan Francis last May [email protected] (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SPOKANE, Wash. – Daniel Hackett looked up at who many think is the best player in college basketball – four inches up to be exact. He didn’t flinch. He wasn’t intimidated. The freshman guard is supposed to be a senior in high school, thinking about spending ditch days at the beach. Instead, he was the latest mismatch for Kevin Durant, the player who has NBA personnel drooling. But the mismatch, somehow, was in USC’s favor. Hackett hounded Durant, pushing around the bigger player and denying him touches in a shocking display of grit. Fifth-seeded USC showed how team play can overcome one great player in upsetting No. 4 Texas 87-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Spokane Arena. “It was fun,” Hackett said of guarding the player who has been a nightmare for so many opponents. “It was like a dream trying to go against a player like him. He’s probably one of the best players college basketball has ever seen.” Like a dream is the perfect way to describe the season USC is having. last_img read more