Stanford can’t stop USC’s big men in loss

LOS ANGELES — Stanford began Sunday looking to even its Pac-12 ledger.

But less than five minutes into the game, it was clear that would be difficult. After allowing USC to score the first 13 points of the game, the Cardinal didn’t have enough to handle the Trojans, who prevailed 77-66.

Nick Rakocevic, a 6-foot-11 forward, scored 23 points and 6-10 forward Bennie Boatwright added 22 for USC (9-6, 2-0 Pac-12). Stanford (7-7, 0-2) took the lead in the second before USC regained control in the closing minutes.

In addition to totaling 45 points between them, Rakocevic and Boatwright combined for 17 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, two steals and just two turnovers.

“We have to find a way to work on our interior defense right now,” Stanford head 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.”

Cormac Ryan scored 18 points — on six second-half three-pointers — for Stanford. Daejon Davis added 14 points and KZ Okpala had 12 .

USC didn’t trail until Okpala’s three-pointer gave Stanford a 49-46 lead with 12:45 left. It remained close until USC took control with an 11-0 run for a 68-55 lead when Rakocevic made a free throw with 2:22 left.

Rakocevic, who scored 27 points in USC’s win over Cal on Thursday, 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 head 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 31-21 at halftime before Stanford used a 10-2 run in the second half to cut the lead to 35-31. A Bryce Willis dunk tied the game 43-43.

Boatwright and Rakocevic did their thing down the stretch.

“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.”

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