Gerrity, Trojans Roll UNLV 67-56; Win Diamond Head Classic

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IDecember 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31:  Marcus Johnson #0 of the USC Trojans dunks over Jorge Gutierrez #2 of the California Golden Bears during the first half at the Galen Center on January 31, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

There is an ominous sound being heard by the PAC-10 opponents of USC.

Orchestrated by Mike Gerrity, the recently eligible point guard who is making the Trojans his third stop, that sound is beginning to reach crescendo level.

For UNLV, who came in with a sterling 12-1 record, they just want the noise to stop.

Led by Marcus Johnson's 19 points and 9 rebounds, USC throttled the running rebels 67-56 to win the inaugural Diamond Head Classic on Christmas day.

Mike Gerrity, who scored 13 points and played all 40 minutes, was named tournament MVP.

And well he should.

Mike Gerrity's handling of the ball and court leadership was the difference between the Trojans victory and victimization against what is typically a stifling UNLV defense.

The senior point guard repeatedly broke the running rebel defense which had been so stout in other victories, including quality wins against Arizona and Louisville.

None of that mattered to Gerrity, who simply dribbled around, through, and sometimes over a rebel defense that hadn't seen much of anything like the athletic Trojans.

USC trailed 3-1 early in the game but after that, never looked back, leading by as many as 21 points at one point in the game.

For the Trojans, their next game will open PAC-10 play against Arizona.

In the meantime, the Trojans will savor this tournament.

What is becoming abundantly obvious is that with Mike Gerrity leading the team, the Trojans are a different breed of cat.

Gerrity brings a calm leadership to the Trojans that makes those around him better players.

In Gerrity, the Trojans have a floor leader who doesn't panic and always looks for an open man.

And the Trojans have responded by by beating their second top twenty team in the last four games, including a then No. 8 Tennessee by 22 points at the Galen center a week or so ago.

Meanwhile, Marcus Johnson stepped up his game with those 19 points and 9 boards.

In addition, Johnson was a defensive beast, forcing UNLV into bad shots and hawking the ball with intensity.

Dwight Lewis chipped in 13 points.

Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic, usually point and rebound leaders for the Trojans, both had quiet games.

However, the fact that USC could overcome the off games of Stepheson and Vucevic to win this game in such convincing fashion is a testament to the Trojans versatility under Gerrity.

There are some cautionary notes to be sounded though.

In the long run, bench depth beyond Leonard Washington must be developed.

Washington came in to give the Trojans a boost off the bench with 9 points and Marcus Simmons offered his usual stalwart defense but that was it for the reserves.

A seven man rotation may not hold up for the whole season, so some minutes must be found elsewhere.

Also, free throw shooting for the Trojans was abysmal in this game.

59% (22-37) from the charity stripe will not cut it in the long run so expect coach Kevin O'Neill to make this a focus in the practices to come.

Having said all that, Kevin O'Neill must be very pleased with the progress of the Trojans who now stand at 8-4.

And the rest of the PAC-10 might want to look for some ear plugs to stop all that noise.