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More Observations on the Texas Win

Just a couple of other things that I found on the Texas win that I wanted to put out there.

There are a couple of great columns today about Daniel Hackett, one by Adande in the LAT and another by Kredell in the DN. They both really shine the light on what Hackett has done for the team and how he has really flown under the radar at SC.

From Adande's column:

If you picked a squad based on talent in the USC-Texas game Sunday, Hackett wouldn't be in the top five. Now try to find someone who tried harder or cared more than the freshman guard.

"I've never seen him play this great," Nick Young said. "This whole tournament he's stepping up."

Just about everyone who made the trip can take credit for USC's 87-68 demolition of the fourth-seeded Longhorns. Great game plan by the coaches and double-digit scoring from all five starters, with an especially gutsy 17 points (along with 14 rebounds) from Taj Gibson despite getting smacked in the jaw. But I'm loving Hackett's fire, his energy, his willingness to take on any challenges.

How about this news he received shortly before game time: Daniel, you're getting your first NCAA tournament start. Oh, and you'll guard Kevin Durant.

From Kredell's article:

Daniel Hackett looked up at who many think is the best player in college basketball - four inches up to be exact.

He didn't flinch. He wasn't intimidated.

... Instead, he was the latest mismatch for Kevin Durant, the player who has NBA personnel drooling.

But the mismatch, somehow, was in USC's favor.

Hackett hounded Durant, pushing around the bigger player and denying him touches in a shocking display of grit.

That's a fantastic effort by itself but Hackett also scored 20 points himself.

As I said earlier today Hackett went above and beyond the call to get into SC, he should still be in high school, and he should be commend for the work he put in both on and off the court to be a member of this team. He will be a special player in the years to come.

The player of yesterday's game is clearly Gabe Pruitt. He really kept D.J. Augustin in handcuffs all day and completely took him out of his rhythm. His defense on Augustin really set the tone and it hit Texas guard right in the mouth. Augustin had as many turnovers as he did points...6. That's some good defense on a guy that scores 14 points per game.

Gabe Pruitt didn't score many points but his defense, though less visible than the coverage of Kevin Durant, was hailed by coaches as the key to USC's victory over Texas.

... "That was my main focus coming into the game, to shut him down," Pruitt said. "I wasn't even thinking about scoring. I knew if I could take him out, they'd struggle offensively."

Augustin entered the game third in scoring for Texas with an average of 14.6 points per game.

He ended up fouling out with four minutes left.

Truly a Herculean effort, Pruitt really has come a long way from his academic suspension. Lets hope he stays another year.

There has been a lot of attention to Ryan Francis and what he meant to this team. With Ryan's mom Paulette in attendance there was that special feeling by the players that something special could happen.

Former teammate Gabe Pruitt said the Trojans "plan to celebrate" Francis' birthday today, when USC faces Texas and Player of the Year Kevin Durant for a spot in the Sweet 16.

"We'll celebrate it for him -- and with him," said Pruitt, who along with Hackett stepped into Francis' point guard role this season.

... the Trojans honored Francis' memory quietly with his mother, Paulette, visiting from her home in Baton Rouge, La., even though she's not fond of flying.

"I heard her coming down the hall this morning and she laughed," Pruitt said. "It was just the way Ryan laughed. He's here.

"And he'll be out there on the floor with us. He's always with us."

This has been a special season for SC basketball, Francis' tragic death really put this team behind the 8-ball in so many ways but the have persevered and made the best of a terrible situation. Something tells me he is coming to East Rutherford too.