LOS ANGELES (AP)—After a slow start to the Tim Floyd era, Southern California has found its stride.
Lodrick Stewart and Nick Young each had 18 points to lead USC to a 74-59 victory over No. 17 North Carolina on Wednesday night.
It was the eighth straight win for the Trojans (8-2) and their first over a ranked opponent since March 2004.
A team that lost to Oral Roberts and Cal State Northridge just weeks ago suddenly found itself beating the defending national champions.
“We’ve grown up a lot since the first couple games of the year,” Floyd said. “I wasn’t sure if we could handle the test tonight.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams thought the Trojans were “the aggressors.”
“They got every loose ball. They were smarter. They were coached better,” he said.
Stewart was 7-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. His 3 with 2:40 to play gave the Trojans a 68-57 lead.
“Two weeks ago, Stewart couldn’t have done this,” Floyd said. “Tonight, he rebounded, really defended and had the poise to take good shots.”
Gabe Pruitt had 16 points and Ryan Francis added 12 points and seven assists for USC.
David Noel led North Carolina (6-2) with 19 points and freshman Tyler Hansbrough had 16. North Carolina’s other loss was to Illinois on Nov. 29 in a rematch of the Tar Heels’ victory in last season’s national championship game.
USC started the second half with an 11-4 run, punctuated by a fall-away 3-pointer by Young that made it 41-39 with 15:23 left, the Trojans’ first lead since early in the first half.
Stewart made consecutive 3s to give USC a 52-47 lead with 10:29 to play. He later scored on a layup to cap a 17-4 run that put USC on top 63-51.
The Trojans were 16-for-28 from the field in the second half (57.1 percent) and shot 48.3 percent for the game. North Carolina went 8-for-32 from the field in the second half.
Playing for only the second time on the road this season, the freshmen-dominated Tar Heels looked rattled. They shot just 52.4 percent from the free throw line and 37 percent from the field.
“It was a total breakdown for us at both ends of the court,” Williams said.
Noel, the lone senior in the starting lineup, went 6-for-11 from the field including 3-for-5 from 3-point range and made four of six free throws.
In the first half, Pruitt made his fourth 3-pointer to tie the game at 26 with 4:10 left. Pruitt scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the first half.
North Carolina answered with an 8-0 run that included six points from Hansbrough to go up 34-26 with 1:13 to play. Noel’s free throw with 17 seconds to play gave North Carolina a 35-30 halftime lead.