USC Blows Out Lehigh In Final Non-Conference Effort At Galen Center

USC opens Pac-10 conference play Wednesday against Washington at Galen Center.

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USC Blows Out Lehigh In Final Non-Conference Effort At Galen Center

Behind Jio Fontan’s 21 points Thursday, USC easily coasted to its third victory in the past four games, defeating visiting Lehigh 76-49 in its final nonconference game of the season.

Despite Tuesday’s 65-64 upset of No. 19 Tennessee, head coach Kevin O’Neill expressed concerns in facing a Mountain Hawks team that had earned an NCAA Tournament bid a year ago, noting the possibility of a letdown game.

Behind the recently eligible Fontan, who made all four of his 3-pointers, the Trojans, now 8-5 overall and 2-1 with the Fordham transfer in the lineup, instead, notched another impressive, resume-building victory.

“Jio is getting better every game,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill told Seth Rubinroit of the Daily Trojan. “He is a guy who [fills] a missing piece for us.”

But yet, O’Neill’s remarks may border on politics, an attempt to have the selection committee acknowledge that ’SC is a different squad with Fontan in the lineup. Instead, however, USC saw contributions from a plethora of players.

Starting bigs Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Alex Stepheson recorded 11 points and 12 rebounds. Additionally, Donte Smith had 13 points off the bench, while Maurice Jones added eight points.

For more information on USC basketball, check out SBN’s Conquest Chronicles.

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USC Returns Home To Face Lehigh At Galen Center

The USC Trojans return home tonight, playing their last game before the holidays and conference play, hosting the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Trojans (7-5) are fresh off their biggest win of the season, a 65-64 victory in Knoxville against the No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers. The win not only snapped a six-game road losing streak for USC, dating back to last season, but also was the first road win against AP top 25 team by a Pac-10 conference team this season.

Tonight's game begins a four-game homestand for the Trojans, who open conference play next Wednesday against the Washington Huskies. Guard Jio Fontan has made himself at home in his first two games with USC. The junior transfer from Fordham scored 15 points at Kansas last weekend in his first game as a Trojan, a 70-68 loss for USC. Fontan then added 13 points, four assists, and three steals in Tuesday's win at Tennessee.

Lehigh (6-5) is playing its first game in the state of California since playing at the University of San Diego in the 1999-2000 season. This is the first meeting between USC and Lehigh, and the Trojans are the fifth Pac-10 opponent ever to play Lehigh. Last season, the Mountain Hawks won their second Patriot League tournament championship, and their first outright league title in school history. They have won their last two games, defeating Marist and St. Francis.

Nikola Vucevic leads USC in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest. The Trojans are 7-2 when they lead at halftime this season, and 0-3 when they trail at the break. USC has outscored its opponents on average this season, 68.5 to 63.4 points per game, while Lehigh has scored 74.0 points per game and allowed 70.4 points per contest. Tonight is USC's final non-conference game of the season.

Here are tonight's probable starting lineups:

Lehigh

USC

  • Guard: Jio Fontan
  • Guard: Maurice Jones
  • Guard: Marcus Simmons
  • Forward: Alex Stephenson
  • Forward: Nikola Vucevic

Tonight's 5:30 p.m. PST tipoff can be seen online at USCTrojans.com.

For more USC basketball news and analysis, be sure to read Conquest Chronicles.

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