MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Taj Gibson was a perfect 10 for Southern California, and way out of Boston College’s league.
Gibson had 24 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the field, sending the 10th-seeded Trojans to a 69-55 victory over Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.
Dwight Lewis had 20 points and DeMar DeRozan added 18 points and nine rebounds for USC (22-12), which maintained the momentum from last week’s Pac-10 tournament title and advanced to Sunday’s second round against the Robert Morris-Michigan State winner in the Midwest Region.
Gibson’s perfect shooting was the second-best performance in NCAA tournament history with a minimum 10 attempts, behind Kentucky’s Kenny Walker and his 11-for-11 in 1986. Gibson matched Marvin Barnes of Providence and Christian Laettner of Duke, who were 10-for-10 in 1973 and 1992, respectively.
Corey Raji led No. 7 seed Boston College (22-12) with 15 points. The Eagles made only one field goal in a dreadful stretch of nearly 13 minutes that ultimately sent them back to Beantown. Star guard Tyrese Rice went 1-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with nine points, and USC improved to 13-0 this season when holding an opponent under 60.
Trojans coach Tim Floyd credited the Eagles earlier in the week for their smart shot selection, but it didn’t matter where or when the ball went up in the second half. It just wasn’t going in.
USC is long and lean, and the relentless leaping for rebounds, tips, dunks and blocks began to pay dividends down the stretch. Reggie Jackson’s 3-pointer put BC up 44-41, but then the Trojans started their push.
Daniel Hackett swatted away a shot and zinged a pass up court to Gibson for a dunk to finish an 11-0 run. Later, after two misses by USC, DeRozan rose above the paint and tipped in the third try for a 56-47 lead.
Gibson tossed in a too-easy turnaround in the lane soon after, giving him the perfect 10.
Last year, O.J. Mayo meant everything to USC. The Trojans were a No. 6 seed, but Michael Beasley and Kansas State knocked them out in the first game. This time, there’s been more balance and stronger camaraderie led by the junior core of Gibson, Lewis and Hackett, the Italian stallion point guard who played all 120 minutes in the Pac-10 tournament.
Gibson, the glue, exerted himself throughout this game.
He blocked a shot underneath toward the end of the first half, and Leonard Washington followed with a strong inside move and a basket on the other end. After an Eagles miss, Gibson attacked the glass, drew a foul during his layup for a three-point play and landed with a scowl framing his full beard and shaved scalp.
The Trojans completed a 9-0 run on their next possession with a fastbreak basket by DeRozan and went up 27-23.
Boston College, buried in a power-packed, sports-crazy market beneath all those trophies accumulated this decade by the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox, once again arrived at the tournament without much buzz. Now in the tradition-cloaked Atlantic Coast Conference, it’s even harder for the Eagles to distinguish themselves. Coming off a 14-17 season, they were picked to finish 11th out of 12 in the ACC last fall.
Even as the higher seed in this game, they weren’t the favorite. Most people, except for the president, were impressed enough with USC’s romp through the Pac-10 tournament to pick the Trojans as one of the teams poised to sneak through a round or two on this side of the bracket.
Boston College coach Al Skinner is as uninterested in external perceptions as anyone, though. Despite an up-and-down season lacking a defining victory on the road and lowlighted by a home loss to Harvard, he deftly guided the Eagles to the tournament for the seventh time in nine years behind the quick bursts and crisp passing of Rice.
Every time USC made a charge, BC was able to regroup and rebound. But as the midpoint of the second half passed, the Trojans created some separation.