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USC Edges Stanford for first 2-0 conference start in 10 year

(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

By BY JILL PAINTER LOPEZ

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) Nick Rakocevic and Bennie Boatwright have become a formidable duo for USC men's basketball team.

Rakocevic scored 23 points and Bennie Boatwright added 22 to lead USC to a 77-66 win over Stanford on Sunday night. They combined for 45 points and 17 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, two steals and just two turnovers.

Boatwright, a senior, has battled many injuries but now that he's healthy they've formed quite a combination on the court.

"It's our chemistry. We're really close," Boatwright said. "He knows every move, so I'm trying to figure out what moves are good. We're really close and it shows on the court. He can find me, and I can find him and we work together as a tandem."

USC (9-6, 2-0 Pac-12) has won its first two conference games of the season for the first time since 2010 and four straight overall.

Stanford (7-7, 0-2) has lost three of its last four games.

Cormac Ryan scored a career-high 18 points - all on six second-half 3-pointers - for Stanford. Daejon Davis had 14 points and Okpala 12 for the Cardinal.

USC scored the first 13 points and didn't trail until KZ Okpala's 3-pointer gave Stanford a 49-46 lead with 12:45 left. It remained close until USC pulled away with an 11-0 run for a 68-55 lead when Rakocevic made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:22 remaining.

Rakocevic, who scored a career-high 27 points in USC's Pac-12 opener against Cal, had 14 in the first half. He finished with 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.

The frontcourt was in a groove, and the Cardinal couldn't top stop it.

"Bennie played like an all-league player tonight, like he is," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "He had such a calm game with the pace. He drove when he had to, he posted up, he shot the perimeter jump shot. He made great passes. He made the right decisions over and over. When we have that consistency on our front line with Nick and Boat, it's fun to watch because they play so well together."

USC led by as many as 13 points before taking a 31-21 lead into the half. Stanford caught fire and went on a 10-2 run in the second half to cut the lead to 35-31. A Bryce Willis dunk tied the game at 43.

But Boatwright and Rakocevic did their thing down the stretch.

"We have to find a way to work on our interior defense right now," Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. "It's not working, so our guys need to figure out a way to get bigger faster and stronger and as a coach I need to figure out different schemes to defend the basket better."

OH NOT AGAIN

USC's Jonah Mathews left the court with an ankle injury but quickly returned after his ankle was taped by trainers. For the brief period he was gone, USC was down to six healthy scholarship players ... Guard Elijah Weaver, who injured his ankle in a walkthrough Thursday and missed the Cal and Stanford games, is expected to return this week.

COURTSIDE STAR POWER

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer attended the game and sat courtside. It was a double-header of basketball as he attended the Clippers' win over Orlando at nearby Staples Center, then made it to Galen Center.

BIG PICTURE

Stanford: The Cardinal put itself in a hole by losing its first two conference games but returns home next.

USC: is proving it can win with little depth in a conference that isn't as strong as usual.

UP NEXT

Stanford: Hosts Arizona on Wednesday.

USC: Plays Thursday at Oregon State.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Updated January 6, 2019

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