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USC Basketball Squads End Thanksgiving Trips Successfully

The USC hoops' teams return from paradise with three wins.

Pe'Shon Howard averaged 18.7 points in the Bahamas.
Pe'Shon Howard averaged 18.7 points in the Bahamas.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The USC men's and women's basketball teams finished their respective Thanksgiving weekend tournaments strong.

The men ran out to a 24-point lead on Xavier before holding on for a 84-78 win Saturday in the seventh-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament held at the Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

The Women of Troy snapped a three-game losing streak with back-to-back blowout wins to conclude the 2013 Triple Crown Sports Cancun Challenge Mayan Tournament held at the Hard Rock Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

For Andy Enfield's squad, the win was a bounceback after back-to-back double-digit losses Villanova and Wake Forest to open the tournament. On Saturday morning, the Trojans (5-3) defeated Xavier (5-3) thanks to a lengthy first half run.

Down by five in the middle of the first half, USC went on a 13-0 run that began an overall 31-11 run that helped the Trojans build a lead as large as 24 points.

The Trojans continued to be a team that looks like a Pac-12 competitor for one stretch only to follow it with a stretch that makes it hard to believe they'll win a single conference game. Up by 23 with just over four minutes remaining, USC let Xavier whittle away at the lead, taking it all the way down to five points in the final minute of the game.

But the Musketeers ran out of time and the Trojans came away with the six-point victory led by Pe'Shon Howard's 23-point, 7-assist effort. Byron Wesley didn't shoot well (5-for-16), but finished with 15 points while freshman Julian Jacobs was solid all around. Jacobs scored 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds, dished seven assists and nabbed three steals.

Nikola Jovanovic, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Roschon Prince, came off the bench and scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, missing only one of his two 3-pointers. Jovanovic and D.J. Haley combined for 14 rebounds off the bench as they were forced to play big minutes (24 each) with Omar Oraby saddled with foul trouble. Oraby had only four points and three rebounds before fouling out after playing only 13 minutes.

As a team, USC shot 49.2 percent from the field, including 8-for-19 from deep. The Trojans also shot 72.7 percent from the free throw line.

On the women's side, the Trojans dropped their tournament opener to Iowa, 78-65, but bounced back with wins over UNC Wilmington and Boston College.

Against UNC Wilmington, it was a complete team effort in an 85-59 win as 14 players participated with 12 getting on the scoreboard. Three players hit double figures as Ariya Crook had 16 points, Briana Barrett scored 12 and Cassie Harberts tallied 11. The trio only missed five field goals as Crook was 6-for-9 from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from deep, while Harberts and Barrett missed one field goal each (combined 9-of-11).

The Women of Troy followed that up with a strong win against the ACC's Boston College, beating the Eagles 79-52. USC shot 55 percent for the game while holding Boston College to only 34 percent, including a paltry 24 percent (7-for-29) in the first half. It was the during the first half that the Trojans ran away with the game, building a 45-18 halftime lead.

Harberts finally got her bread and butter going down low in her strongest performance of the season. She finished with a season-high 19 points that included a season-high seven free throw attempts. (And she made all seven.)

Despite having four turnovers, Crook continued her strong season offensively. She equaled Harberts' 19 points to maintain her streak of being the leading scorer in every game this season. Crook was 6-of-9 from the floor, knocking down 3-of-4 from three-point land.

In the two wins, the USC women had their lowest turnover outputs of the season, giving the ball away only 13 times against UNC Wilmington and 12 times to Boston College. Barrett had nine assists to three turnovers while fellow sophomore Jordan Adams had six assists to two turnovers.

The Women of Troy aren't back in action until next Tuesday at Cal State Northridge at 6 p.m. PT. But the USC men's basketball team gets its shot at Boston College Sunday at the Galen Center at 4 p.m. PT.