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MEN'S BASKETBALL: LAFAYETTE GIVES USC A BOOST TROJANS REBOUND WITH WIRE-TO-WIRE WIN USC 81, LAFAYETTE 59.

Byline: Ramona Shelburne Staff Writer

There were several ways USC could have responded to its 15-point loss to Cal Poly last week.

As poorly as the Trojans played against the Mustangs, it easily could've been the turning point of a season-long funk. Or, with a week to regroup, it could have acted more like smelling salts for a team that has struggled against lesser opponents.

For one game, the latter seems to be the case after USC cruised to an 81-59 victory over Lafayette in front of 3,218 Sunday at the Sports Arena.

The outcome never really was in doubt after the Trojans (5-4) opened with a 19-0 run while Lafayette missed its first 12 shots.

``It's about time,'' USC coach Henry Bibby said. ``I thought we played defense tonight better than we have all season.''

Defensive intensity was the main topic of a closed-door team meeting Bibby held Saturday.

``It was serious,'' said Desmon Farmer, who scored 21 of his game-high 23 points in the first half. ``I think guys really paid attention to what coach was saying, and it carried over to the game.''

Junior forward Jeff McMillan, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, also said defense was the key. The Leopards shot 29.7 percent from the field after coming into the game shooting 49.8 percent and scoring 75.8 points a game.

Still, Lafayette (8-2) was no pushover. The Leopards offer no scholarships but entered with an eight-game winning streak and had been receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. They were ranked 27th in RPI by CollegeRPI.com as of Dec. 22.

Lafayette will play at Cal State Northridge on Tuesday night.

--Day leaves: Freshman point guard Quinton Day apparently has left the team ``for personal reasons,'' and neither Bibby nor the team has any idea whether he will return. According to Bibby, Day returned to Kansas City, Mo., after the Trojans' loss to Cal Poly on Monday and has not returned to school.

This is not the first time this season Day has had difficulties. Earlier, Bibby did not allow Day to dress for the Trojans' victory over Cal State Northridge because his cell phone went off in a meeting, a violation of team rules.

Day, who was listed among the top 20 prep point guards in the country by Athlon Sports and Insider Hoops last season, played only 32 minutes and had fallen behind fellow freshman point guard Rodrick Stewart in the rotation.

``I hope he comes back,'' Farmer said. ``We want him to be a part of what we're doing here.''

--Smiley to have surgery: Senior forward Roydell Smiley, who came on strong during the Trojans' run to the Pacific-10 Conference tournament championship game last season, will have arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday and likely will be out for the season.

Smiley has yet to play this season but said the injury is an old one, suffered while at Southeastern Iowa College. He said he tore his right medial collateral ligament and never had surgery to repair it.

Ramona Shelburne, (818) 713-3617

ramona.shelburne(at)dailynews.com

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Photo:

USC's Jeff McMillan dunks in the first half of a convincing 81-59 victory over Lafayette on Sunday.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 29, 2003
Words:545
Previous Article:WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: CHEEKS SHOOTS USC TO WIN OVER UCLA USC 64, UCLA 51.
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