Gibson helps Southern Cal oust ArkansasMar 17, 2007 - 8:29 AM SPOKANE, Washington (Ticker) -- Arkansas appeared to have one advantage over Southern California, but freshman Taj Gibson negated it.
Gibson had 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots to lift the fifth-seeded Trojans to a 77-60 victory over 12th-seeded Arkansas in an NCAA Tournament East Region matchup.
USC (24-11), which bounced back from a drubbing to Oregon in the final of the Pac-10 Conference tournament, will meet fourth-seeded Texas in Sunday's second round.
"We came out hungry after letting our fans down in the Pac -10 final," Gibson said. "The more we play as a team the better we will be."
Much of the Trojans' success all season has hinged on their perimeter attack, led by swingman Nick Young and guards Lodrick Stewart and Gabe Pruitt.
Leading scorer Young delivered with 20 points but it was the surprising contribution of Gibson that help USC control Arkansas (21-14) throughout.
Even though Gibson has had a fine freshman season, averaging 11.8 points, he is the Trojans' only starter taller than 6-6 and figured to have trouble matching up against Arkansas' duo of Charles Thomas and 7-foot junior Steven Hill, who had 99 blocks this season and 244 for his career.
Instead, the 6-9 Gibson had his way inside, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the first half to stake USC to a 38-27 lead at the break.
"Taj is ahead of where we thought he would be," Trojans coach Tim Floyd said. "It's as good a defense as we played this year."
The Razorbacks made just one mini-run, scoring six of the first eight points in the second half to close within 40-33 early in the second half.
Pruitt answered with a 3-pointer, Young hit two free throws and Gibson dunked - drawing a technical for hanging on the rim - to push the advantage to 47-33 with 17:49 left.
Arkansas never was able to get the lead under double digits thereafter and USC used a later spurt to push the lead over 20 points.
"It feels great," said Young, who also had seven boards, a block and a steal. "I was out there a little nervous in the beginning, because (of) my first time I playing out there in an environment like this, and after like the first five minutes we started getting it going and I started to get in the zone and things started to flow for us."
The Trojans held a dominating 39-26 edge on the backboards, which Floyd attributed to Gibson's presence throughout the season.
"He's changed us rebounding-wise," Floyd said. "I remember our last game in the Pac-10 tournament last year was against Leon Powe and Cal, I think they outrebounded us 20. And we haven't had many of those nights this year."
- EAST REGIONAL
AT SPOKANE WA
NCAA BB EAST REGIONAL
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
ARKANSAS 27 33 60
USC 38 39 77 FINAL
Mar 17 12:21 AM
- EAST REGIONAL
AT SPOKANE WA
NCAA BB (12) ARKANSAS 27
(5) USC 38 HALFTIME
Mar 16 11:04 PM
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