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USC overpowers UNLV in DHC title game


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POSTED: Saturday, December 26, 2009

UNLV finally met a team it couldn't bully, badger or intimidate with defensive pressure. For once, the opposite happened.

USC, a team replete with physical specimens and a new weapon, imposed its bruising style of play on the Runnin' Rebels in a 67-56 win to claim the championship of the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The weapon: transfer point guard Mike Gerrity, who played just his fourth game for USC (8-4) after becoming eligible following the fall semester.

               

     

 

ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM

        MVP: Mike Gerrity, USC
       

Marcus Johnson, USC

       

Tre'von Willis, UNLV

       

Dwain Williams, Hawaii

       

Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's

       

 

       

It's no coincidence the Trojans won their sixth straight game. The wiry 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior stands starkly out of place next to his athletic teammates, but he was again masterful in directing his team to a win with 13 points, three assists and countless deft maneuvers through the Rebels' fullcourt pressure. He collected DHC most valuable player honors after totaling 47 points in three games.

“;They definitely brought the pressure, but we tried to find our ways to get through it,”; Gerrity said.

“;We have Mike Gerrity. That's our one-man press break, right here,”; said forward Marcus Johnson, who scored 19 points—one off his career high—and was named to the all-tournament team alongside the guard. He helped instill a smashmouth football mentality in holding UNLV (12-2) to a season low in points and 33.3 percent shooting. “;I know personally I wanted to be physical. We're a physical team, we're a hit-first team. That's what Coach (Kevin O'Neill) has ingrained in us. So that's what we want to come out and do.”;

Thus, the Rebels forced just eight turnovers and collected only two steals despite averaging 9.4 thefts per game this season. Without effective pressure, UNLV (just short of the AP Top 25) became an average team and had a five-game winning streak snapped.

“;Mike Gerrity's unbelievable with the ball,”; O'Neill said. “;We didn't mess around with any press breaks; we just said let's get it to him and make decisions and we'll go from there.”;

A 16-2 USC run late in the first half broke the game open and the margin got no smaller than nine in the final minutes, despite a Trojans brickfest at the foul line (22-for-37 shooting, 59.5 percent).

“;They knocked us around a little bit, very physical, knocked us on our heels,”; UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “;They played great, very well. We weren't able to respond as we needed to.”;

UNLV's top scorer, Tre'von Willis, was held to four points on 0-for-6 shooting from the field. Oscar Bellfield led UNLV with 17 points.

FIFTH PLACE
Western Michigan 66, College of Charleston 63

The Broncos got the best of the Cougars after 12 lead changes and seven ties. Charleston's Donavan Monroe hit a 3-pointer to pull his team within 64-63 with 2:23 left, but WMU's David Kool hit two free throws with 15 seconds left and Monroe missed the potential tying shot with 3 seconds to play.

Kool had 16 points to lead WMU (6-5), which put together consecutive wins for the first time this season.

Jeremy Simmons and Andrew Goudelock had 17 points apiece to lead Charleston (6-6).

SEVENTH PLACE
Northeastern 73, SMU 62

Matt Janning led four Huskies in double figures with 16 points as NU (3-7) salvaged a victory after starting the tournament 0-2.

The Huskies shot 56.6 percent from the field and held the Mustangs (4-6) to 37 percent in the second half to win comfortably.

Derek Williams led the Mustangs with 19 points.