for this game

Big night from Gibson helps Southern California avoid upset

Nov 19, 2008 - 8:08 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- With O.J. Mayo gone, Taj Gibson may be ready to shine.

Gibson tied a career-high with 22 points and grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds helping No. 20 Southern California hold off upset-minded New Mexico State, 73-60, on Tuesday.

Dwight Lewis had 16 points and Daniel Hackett added 10 for the Trojans (2-0), who hit 26-of-36 free throws to offset a poor shooting night (40 percent). They also made up for it by dominating on the glass, outrebounding the Aggies, 42-28.

"We tried to do too much," USC coach Tim Floyd told the Los Angeles Times. "We forgot who we were. The sloppiness is the result of the fact that we're young."

Jahmar Young had 16 points and Troy Gillenwater added 15 for the Aggies (1-1), who used a 36-point second half to stay competitive.

"I'm very pleased with the effort," New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. "The guys played hard and fought. They battled and I thought did a great job on different little things."

They put a scare into USC, which is still finding its identity without Mayo, who led the team in scoring (20.7 ppg) in one season before leaving for the NBA. Freshman DeMar DeRozan, who has been pegged to fill Mayo's shoes, scored just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting.

"You're going to have a couple of games that you'll struggle," DeRozan told the Times. "But I try to look past that."

DeRozan scored 14 in his debut, a 78-55 win over UC Irvine on Saturday.

While, DeRozan struggled, the junior Gibson proved he is more than capable of handling the load, as he shot 9-of-20 from the floor and blocked five shots.

New Mexico State went on a 13-5 run to pull within 51-46 with 11:23 remaining, but Gibson scored eight points during a 16-10 run that put USC up, 67-56 with 3:43 left.

"We're trying to encourage guys to keep going and know it's a 40-minute game," Gibson told the newspaper. "We're just trying to get better."

The Trojans then hit 6-of-8 from the line down the stretch to seal the win.

Gibson also scored six points during a 13-2 first-half run and Southern California carried a 34-24 lead into the locker room.

USC, which is 2-0 for the first time in eight years, heads to the Puerto Rico Tip-off, where it will face Seton Hall on Thursday.

The defending Western Athletic Conference champions, New Mexico State fell to 1-4 all-time vs. Southern California and has lost five straight games to ranked teams.