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USC HAS LONG NIGHT : NEW MEXICO 98, USC 76.

Byline: Associated Press

March or November, it's all the same to New Mexico sophomore Lamont Long.

The Lobos' best player in the final month of the 1996-97 season opened the new year with a career-high 31 points Tuesday as No. 11 New Mexico raced away from USC in a 98-76 win at the NABC Classic.

No. 24 Temple beat Auburn 68-42 in the first game of the doubleheader that was part of the opening night of college basketball.

``The sky's the limit with Lamont,'' said New Mexico coach Dave Bliss. ``He has tremendous feel for scoring points in a variety of ways.''

Long hit 4 of 5 three-point shots and frequently slashed his way to the basket in hitting 11 of 21 shots. He led an offense that solved every defense the Trojans threw at New Mexico, and the Lobos ran their homecourt winning streak to 27 games - third longest among major colleges.

New Mexico shot 50 percent, hit 13 of 26 three-pointers and displayed so much teamwork that the Lobos finished with 21 assists.

``We played a very, very good veteran team,'' USC coach Henry Bibby said. ``We wanted them to shoot from outside. My philosophy is that you don't win games with outside shooting. They proved me wrong.''

USC, which tied for second place last year in the Pacific-10, got 18 points from Jarvis Turner and 10 from Adam Spanich.

Six Lobos hit three-pointers, including two by 6-foot-9 center Kenny Thomas, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas, a junior who has indicated he may pass up his senior year in favor of the NBA draft, enhanced his stock with his foot-speed inside and solid perimeter shooting.

``Our focus was in trying to stop Thomas inside,'' said Bibby. ``We had to hope that Lamont Long wouldn't get 31 points.''

``I thought Kenny played the quickest game he's ever had,'' Bliss said. ``His quickness inside is obviously very important to our plans this year.''

But Long and Thomas weren't the only Lobos who hurt USC.

Senior guard Royce Olney, a former sixth man who is now a starter in New Mexico's three-guard offense, tied his career high with 19 points and set career bests with eight assists and five steals.

A backdoor layup by Long with 50 seconds left in the first half gave New Mexico a 48-22 lead and the Lobos continued the assault in the opening 90 seconds of the second half. David Gibson hit a 15-foot jumper, Clayton Shields hit a three-pointer from the top of the key and Long scored back-to-back baskets with a layup and three-pointer for the night's biggest lead at 58-24.

``We got to be a better basketball team tonight, but we've got a long ways to go,'' said Bliss. ``We beat them down the floor and made some good decisions early. We weren't quite so judicious in the second half.''
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 12, 1997
Words:481
Previous Article:HONORING THEIR SACRIFICE; RESIDENTS GATHER TO RECOGNIZE VETERANS.
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