Result: Win, 74-47
Stats: 16 pts. (6-12 FG, 1-1 FT), 7 rebounds, 5 assists
Although netting only half the total from his collegiate debut, Mayo actually acquitted himself much better in this game, turning the ball over only five times and shooting with much greater efficiency. He also played the entire game under an apparent constant barrage of jeering from Citadel cadets sitting along the baseline. According to the LA Times:
The cadets came equipped with signs reading, “Please don’t assault our refs” and “Mayo: The Next Michael Vick.” One even held up a poster with a picture of Mayo alongside a mug shot of O.J. Simpson.
A local black man apparently felt that the posters and taunts were racist, mostly because..well, they were. Now the jab regarding Mayo assaulting a ref is acceptable, because it’s true, and the O.J. Simpson thing is understandable given the name/school parallels previously pointed out by us and just about everyone else in the known universe. But since Mayo has never been accused of anything as reprehensible as Vick has, we can only assume that analogy is based solely on the fact that they’re both athletes and both the blackest people that have ever been within a 300 mile radius of most Citadel cadets. It’s kind of like holding up a sign at a White Stripes concert calling Jack White the next Gary Glitter. And to be quite honest, in this case racism is all about location, location, location. The taunting would have had an undeniably different connotation if it had been done by a group of shaggy tweakers at Pauley Pavilion rather than in South Carolina by a contingent of uniformed, white, crew-cut military (though obviously not history) students.
The cadets were successful, however, in not only making our young protagonist a sympathetic figure, but the essence of class and maturity. “The cadets, they did a nice job,” Mayo said, before adding the curious “Our high school games are kind of like that, and playing in Kentucky was kind of wild like that.” Someone may want to let OJ know that playing at USC essentially ended his high school career, but to be fair to him his senior year was probably a good deal tougher than his current curriculum at SC.
The game was also notable for the return of USC guard Daniel Hackett, who fueled the rout with 22 points in 29 minutes. Hackett is returning from a broken jaw that was supposedly inflicted accidentally by OJ Mayo’s elbow while pulling down a rebound in a pickup game. Riiiiiiight. In our many years of watching and playing basketball we’ve seldom seen broken jaws as a result of a flying elbow, even in games where Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn were sharing the court. However, this version of the story was confirmed by coach Tim Floyd, despite the fact that there was at least one other player present who said that the story was mostly true, just replace “elbow” with “fist”, and despite the fact that OJ Mayo wrote Hackett a letter of apology. That’s right, a letter of apology, for an “accident”. Regardless, if Hackett plays consistently at the same level he did against Texas in last year’s Tourney run, and if Taj Gibson doesn’t let himself get lost in the shuffle, and if OJ can keep his fists, rather his elbows, to himself, the Trojans will be writing letters of apology to a lot of Pac-10 teams they accidentally laid a whooping on.