December 31, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California used its size and strength to outmuscle Vermont.

Strahinja Gavrilovic scored 15 points, making 9 of 12 free throws, and fellow Serb big man Nikola Jovanovic had 12 points and 10 rebounds in USC's 64-56 victory Tuesday night. At 6-foot-9 and 6-11, respectively, those two helped the Trojans own a 42-26 edge in the paint.

''With our size we could play them inside more,'' Gavrilovic said. ''We were a little bit stronger than them.''

Katin Reinhardt added 11 points for the Trojans (8-4), who have won six of their last seven, giving them momentum going into their league opener at No. 10 Utah on Friday.

Kurt Steidl scored 18 points - one off his career high - and Ethan O'Day added 14 for the Catamounts (5-7), who have lost three straight. Steidl had eight rebounds, hit four three-pointers and made all four of his free throws.

''We came all the way back and to let it kind of slip away at the end, it's really tough,'' Steidl said. ''But we fought really, really hard in the second half. I think we can try and build off that.''

Vermont's top defender Dre Wills played just nine minutes after tweaking his foot in the first half. He briefly returned late in the game.

The Catamounts trailed by 18 when they rallied to get to 54-48 with 9:50 remaining. They outscored USC 16-4, including five in a row by Steidl and a 3-pointer by Brandon Hatton. O'Day added four points.

A basket by Hector Harold got Vermont within four, and he nearly stole the ball before Jovanovic picked it up and scored to keep USC ahead 62-56 with 1:27 remaining. The Catamounts have lost their last three by a total of 12 points.

''For a 10-minute stretch it seemed like everyone had trouble scoring and holding onto the ball,'' USC coach Andy Enfield said. ''We played great in the first half on both sides of the ball. If we play like we did in the second half, we're not very good. We're streaky and we're still learning.''

The Trojans were outscored 30-21 in the second half.

''We took them lightly in the second half and didn't come out with energy,'' Jovanovic said.

Vermont was held to a season-low 30 percent from the field.

USC went 17 of 25 from the line.

''They made almost all their points at the free throw line,'' Vermont coach John Becker said. ''It was a combination of fouling too much and not rebounding in the first half.''

The Trojans built an eight-point lead to start the game before the Catamounts closed within four on consecutive dunks by O'Day despite shooting 23 percent. USC answered with a 22-9 run to close the half leading 43-26. The Trojans were 13 of 17 from the line in the half, while Vermont went 7 of 8.

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TIP-INS

Vermont: The Catamounts fell to 0-3 on their four-game trip. ... They are 1-6 against Pac-12 schools. ... Vermont narrowly missed equaling its lowest points in a half, 24, set last week in a loss at St. Louis.

USC: The Trojans' largest lead was 19 points late in the first half. ... It was the first meeting between the schools.

HAROLD'S HOMECOMING

Harold, a Pasadena native and former Pepperdine player, returned after missing the last three games with a foot injury. He finished with four points and nine rebounds. The West Coast trip was planned for Harold.

''My whole family's here. I heard my dad cheering for me in the stands,'' he said. ''It was a pretty good experience, but I wish we could have come down with a `W.'''

UP NEXT

Vermont: At UC Santa Barbara on Friday.

USC: At No. 10 Utah on Friday.

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