LOS ANGELES (AP)—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, as Southern 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.