Gerrity leads USC to rout of No. 9 Vols

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl didn’t have much of a scouting report

on Southern Cal point guard Mike Gerrity, mostly because he wasn’t

sure the floor general would be eligible to play.

Pearl wound up seeing plenty of him on Saturday afternoon.

Gerrity had 12 points and 10 assists as the Trojans routed

the No. 9 Vols 77-55, their worst loss since Pearl took over before

the 2005-06 season.

“They’re a completely different team with him running the

show,” Pearl said. “We knew he could become eligible, but we hadn’t

seen him on any tape. … His play was a huge factor in their

dominating us.”

Gerrity was making his debut for Southern Cal (5-4) after

transferring from Charlotte following the first semester of last

season. He helped the Trojans build a 24-point lead in the second

half, asSouthern Cal won its third straight and first against a

ranked team.

Considering Gerrity hadn’t played a game since March 2008,

USC coach Kevin O’Neill said he was “shocked at how well he

played.” Gerrity found out Friday that he would be eligible.

“It was incredible, it felt so good,” Gerrity said. “From the

moment we tipped, I found my way into the game a few minutes and

once I got that comfort (level), it was just unbelievable the rest

of the game.”

Alex Stepheson had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds,

while Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the

Trojans, giving them three players with double-doubles.

Scotty Hopson had 16 points to lead Tennessee (8-2), which

was out-rebounded 43-21 and had its own four-game win streak

snapped. Melvin Goins added 10 points.

Gerrity did most of his work in the first half, handing out

seven assists and grabbing three rebounds. Dwight Lewis did his

damage after the break, scoring 11 of his 21 points – including all

nine during a 9-2 run that made it 59-40.

“I thought at halftime if we could come out and not let them

barrage us in the first seven or eight minutes in the second half

that we would have a chance,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t think we’d

beat them like this.”

Tennessee committed just eight turnovers, but shot a

season-low 2 of 22 (9.1 percent) from beyond the 3-point line and

scored a season-low 55 points. The Vols entered the week eighth in

the nation in scoring offense (85.0) and seventh in 3-point field

goal percentage (43.4).

“I couldn’t be happier with it,” O’Neill said of his team’s

defense. “I thought we did a great job of protecting the paint. I

thought our guys did a good job of being in their air space and

changing their shots.”

Tennessee struggled early and never found a rhythm, missing

their first nine 3-pointers and making just 2 of 14 field goals.

The drought allowed USC to jump out to an early 11-5 lead.

“Early in the game we had good looks and we just didn’t make

anything,” Pearl said. “They pack it in defensively and we’ve got

to be able to make shots.”

The Vols employed a full-court press that led to seven

unanswered points, capped by consecutive lay-ups from Bobby Maze to

give Tennessee a lead. But the Trojans’ Marcus Johnson scored seven

points during a 14-1 run over the final 4 minutes of the first

half.

The Trojans shot 61.9 percent from the field while holding

the Vols to a season-low 29.6 percentage in building their 33-20

halftime lead. The 20 points were the fewest Tennessee has scored

this season.