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January 30, 2009DeMar DeRozan hasn't been playing the best basketball of his life over the past week. After a solid night at Washington, he scored just five points in USC's 46-44 win at Washington State last Saturday.
Thursday night against Stanford at Galen Center, DeRozan again didn't look particularly comfortable in USC's half-court offense. But at a crucial time in the second half, nothing stood between DeRozan and the basket, and he proved to the 7,963 in attendance he could ignite a victory.
DeRozan took off on the break, cupped the ball in his right hand, extended his right arm and violently threw the ball down, giving USC its first lead since late in the first half.
"That was a momentum changer for us," DeRozan said.
And maybe with the game in the balance, it was momentum that willed a last-second turnaround jumper from Stanford's Lawrence Hill around the rim and out, giving the Trojans a 70-69 win.
"I thought it was in," USC head coach Tim Floyd said. "From where I was sitting, it looked good."
Taj Gibson defended the jumper, getting a hand in Hill's face without fouling.
"I let out a sigh of relief," Gibson said.
It wasn't too dissimilar to the sigh of relief Floyd let out earlier in the week. As recent as Wednesday morning, Floyd said he was positive that pneumonia would keep Gibson from playing.
It didn't, and the Trojan big man led all scorers with 20 points.
"He's extremely tough," freshman Leonard Washington said. "I didn't think he'd be out there. When I heard he was sick, I went to his room that night, and we had a nice little talk.
"He told me he was going to fight for us, and he came out and fought for us."
Gibson and guard Daniel Hackett both battled through illness to play a combined 75 minutes Thursday night.
Hackett finished with 12 points, four assists and two steals.
"I was a little scared to even be around those guys," Washington said.
USC (14-6, 5-3 Pac-10) controlled the game for most of the first half, but the Trojans still headed to the locker room trailing 38-33.
Stanford started the half 1-of-7 from the field before making 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) to close out the half.
The Trojans out-shot Stanford in the half, hitting 53.8 percent to the Cardinal's 51.6.
The Cardinal (13-5, 3-5) got plenty of open looks in the half, exploiting USC's tendency to collapse too many men on the ball.
"They just hurt you from so many spots. They stretch your defense and they can post you from so many different areas. Their versatility is the beauty of this team," Floyd said. "We tried to double Hill in the post early, and they played very adept out of it.
"It wasn't a result of our players. It was a result of us playing a new team for the first time and us viewing what we thought we could do to that team defensively. We couldn't do it, and we had to get completely away from it."
The adjustment worked, as Stanford cooled off considerably in the final 20 minutes, shooting 38.5 percent from the field.
Hill led four Stanford scorers in double figures with 19 points.
USC has now won three of its last four games by a total of four points.
"They've all been like this," he said. " I think when you're a young team, the more close games you play, the better you get at it."