Trojans Seek First Pac-10 Win Against Beavers on Sunday
Jan. 1, 2005
Los Angeles -
The USC men's basketball team--now 7-5 overall and 5-3 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia--goes for its sixth win in eight games as it continues Pac-10 play at Oregon State (9-3) at 2 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 2). The Trojans are 0-1 in conference after losing to Oregon, 90-83, on New Year's Eve. Since Trojan head coach Henry Bibby was dismissed on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 5-3. Troy is led by the underclass backcourt combination of Lodrick Stewart (15.3 ppg) and Gabe Pruitt (11.1 ppg) and the upperclass front court trio of Gregg Guenther (8.8 pts, 7.3 reb), Rory O'Neil (10.3 ppg, .464 from 3-point range) and Jeff McMillan (9.1 pts, 5.6 reb). The Trojans are looking for their third-straight win over the Beavers.
SCOUTING OREGON STATE -- The Beavers are 9-3 following an 85-80 win over UCLA on Friday. OSU, coached by Jay John, is six points away from being 10-1 on the season, as they have two two-point losses. Senior forward David Lucas is returned from inury and leads the Beavers in scoring at 17 per game, but big freshman Sasa Cuick has been effective as well, averaging 14.2 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
ROAD GAME WOES -- The Trojans have lost their last four games on the road. The last road game USC won was against Oregon State in the 2004 season finale, 63-60.
Errick Craven OUT -- Senior Trojan guard Errick Craven--the 3-time reigning Pac-10 steals champ--is out two weeks with a sprain to his right ankle.
NEW ARENA COMING -- Thanks to the generosity of Louis and Helene Galen, USC's athletic department has begun construction on The Galen Center--a new $114 million, 10,258-seat campus events center that will be home to USC men's basketball. Complete with locker rooms, offices and practice facilities for both basketball and volleyball, The Galen Center is scheduled to be completed in 2006.
NEXT UP -- The Trojans return home next week to host No. 16 Washington and Washington State on Jan. 6 and Jan. 8, respectively.
LAST GAME -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart scored 25 points and freshman guard Nick Young added a career-high 21, but the Trojans couldn't make plays down the stretch and dropped a 90-83 decision to Oregon on Friday. USC was up 80-77 with just over four minutes left but then was outscored 11-0 by the Ducks, who were led by 34 points from Aaron Brooks. USC equalled its season best by shooting .541 from the field but again struggled at the line, making just 9 of 17 (.563). It was USC's fifth-straight loss to the Ducks.
STU! -- In the first three games of the season (two of them Trojan losses), sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart averaged 6.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals per game and was shooting just 35% from the field. In the last nine games (six of them Trojan wins), the left-handed Stewart is averaging 18.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals, while shooting .508 from the field. He also has scored 20 points or more five times in that stretch. In the last seven games--five of them USC wins--he is shooting a stellar 48-of-89 from the field (.539) and is 25-of-58 from 3-point range (.431). In his career, he has seven games of 20 points or more. All have come in the last 17 games he has played for USC. He is USC's leading scorer this year (15.3).
PRU! -- Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young point guards in the country. The Los Angeles native didn't waste much time in game one--a check of the records indicates that when Pruitt co-led the Trojans in scoring against UC Irvine with 13 points, it was the first time since the advent of freshmen eligibility that a freshman had led the Trojans in scoring in a season opener. But Pruitt--who has a style reminiscent of NBA star Jalen Rose--wasn't just a one-game wonder. He currently leads the Pac-10 in steals (2.2 per game) and is sixth in assists (4.1 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (11.1 avg.), field goal percentage (.485--the best FG% ever by a freshman Trojan guard) and minutes (30.6). Since Pruitt became the starter at point, the Trojans are 6-3 and he is averaging 11.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. He has shot .500 or better from the field in eight of USC's 12 games.
G IS MONEY -- Senior forward Gregg Guenther has also been on a tear of late. In the last seven games--all but one of them coming off the bench--the former USC football tight end is averaging 11.7 points and 9.0 rebounds. Included in that stretch was a career-high in points against Western Michigan (20) and a career-high in rebounds against San Diego (16). So far this season, he has three double-doubles, all coming in the last seven games.
THE TANK BEGINS TO ROLL -- Senior forward Jeff 'Tank' McMillan came back in the Rainbow Classic last week after being out of the lineup since the first possession of game three against La Salle, when he broke his left hand. Since his return, the 2004 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year is averaging 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game. He started for the first time since the La Salle game against Oregon, scoring 9 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.
YOUNG GUN -- USC's recruiting class was ranked as high as seventh by one expert. The two jewels of the class--and the prime building blocks of USC teams to come--are Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young. While Pruitt's exploits were noted earlier, it is Young who has come on the most of late. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young is averaging 14.5points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting .510 from the field the last four games. He has scored a career-high 21 points against Oregon on 9-of-17 shooting, while also grabbing 7 rebounds.
CURRENT TROJANS LIFETIME AGAINST OREGON ST. --
Player Games Pts. Rebs. Ast. Pts. HighDerrick Craven 4 2.8 3.3 2.3 4Nick Curtis 4 2.3 2.5 0.8 9Gregg Guenther 5 5.4 4.6 0.4 12Jeff McMillan 2 6.0 7.5 3.0 10Rory O'Neil 6 7.0 1.8 0.3 18Lodrick Stewart 2 15.5 2.5 1.5 19
SENIORITIS -- The Trojans are blessed with six seniors--guards Errick and Derrick Craven, and forwards Rory O'Neil, Jeff McMillan, Nick Curtis and Greg Guenther--the most of any team in the Pac-10. Between the six of them, they have played 10,867 minutes, scored 3,845 points, snagged 2,144 rebounds and dished out 675 assists in their careers.
BALANCING ACTS -- The Trojans had six players score in double figures in the season opening win at home against UCI and did it again against Southern this past week. The last time that had happened was against Oregon in 2002 in Pac-10 tournament play. USC is 4-0 this year in games where at least five players score in double figures.
OUTGOING -- Two Trojans--sophomore guard Rodrick Stewart and freshman forward Emanuel Willis--have left the program. Stewart, twin brother of Lodrick, is transferring to Kansas, while Willis is returning home to Mississippi (his ultimate playing destination is unknown at this point).
STEAL THIS NOTE -- USC led the Pac-10 in steals last year with an average of 8.89 steals per game. They are leading it again this year with an average of 9.6 per game. That average puts USC on pace to break the school record of 287 steals set in 2001-2002.
THE LINEUP -- The Trojans have trotted out seven different starting lineups this young season. The only Trojan to start all 12 games has been senior center Rory O'Neil. The most productive USC starting lineup is Gabe Pruitt, Lod Stewart, Nick Curtis, Nick Young and Rory O'Neil together. Troy is 3-1 when starting that combination.
ASSISTS BONANZA -- USC has been passing the ball well lately, thanks to the 1-4 Ralph Miller offense that Jim Saia installed at USC this season. It's an offense that relies on passing and result in a lot of easy baskets and assists when run properly. The last two seasons, USC has averaged just 13.6 assists per game. So far this season, it is averaging 16.6 assists per game. At its current pace, USC can challenge the school record for assists in a season (518 in 2000).
USC PICKED TO FINISH SIXTH IN MEDIA POLL -- USC was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 media poll on Nov. 4. Arizona was picked first with 19 first-place votes and 253 points. Washington (seven first-place votes and 237 points) was second and Stanford was third (194 points). Oregon was fourth (167), followed by UCLA (156), USC (116), California (87), Oregon State (86), Washington State (73) and Arizona State (64).
PAST GLORY -- Fifty years ago this calendar year, the Trojans went to their last NCAA Final Four. The 1953-54 USC basketball team was coached by Forrest Twogood and was captained by forward Dick Welsh. The Trojans fell to Bradley, 74-72, in their semifinal game. Bradley went on to lose to La Salle (which beat USC earlier this season, coincidentally) in the NCAA title game.