Trojans Head To Desert Looking For First Conference Win

Jan. 10, 2005

Los Angeles -

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The USC men's basketball team--now 7-8 overall and 0-4 in Pac-10 play--looks for its first win in conference as it heads to the desert to take on Arizona (12-3, 2-1) on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. MT and Arizona State (13-2, 2-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. MT. Since Trojan head coach Henry Bibby was dismissed on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 5-6 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia. Troy is led by the underclass backcourt combination of Lodrick Stewart (14.7 ppg) and Gabe Pruitt (10.5 ppg). After starting 7-4, USC has lost five of its last six, including four in a row.

SCOUTING ARIZONA -- The Wildcats are coming off an 87-76 loss at Stanford that snapped their nine-game winning streak. Arizona is 8-0 at home this season and is led by senior center Channing Frye (14.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg), senior guard Salim Stoudamire (14.1 ppg) and junior guard Hassan Adams (12.3 ppg). The Wildcats have been especially effective from 3-point range, shooting .406 as as team. They also lead the Pac-10 in free throw percentage (.761) and steals (9.27).

SCOUTING ASU -- Arizona State (13-2, 2-1) has been a turnaround team this season. Last year, the Sun Devils finished last in the Pac-10 with a 4-14 record, 10-17 overall. The ASU attack begins and ends with All-American center Ike Diogu, a junior, who leads the conference in scoring (23.3), rebounding (10.4) and blocked shots (2.73). But the Sun Devils are also getting good play from senior guard Steve Moore (13.5 ppg). As a team, ASU leads the Pac-10 in rebounding (39.5) and 3-point FG defense (.287).

PLENTY OF BASKETBALL TO BE PLAYED -- Though USC is 0-4 in conference, it has been in worse situations before and come back to have a good season. In fact, in 1990-91, the Trojans started out 0-4 in the Pac-10 and went on to make the NCAA tournament.

NEXT UP -- The Trojans return home next week to host California on Thursday (Jan. 20) and Stanford on Saturday (Jan. 22).

LAST GAME -- The Trojans dropped to 0-4 in the Pac-10 (and 7-8 overall) as Washington State methodically took care of USC, 67-52, at the Sports Arena. It was the second consecutive game that Troy scored a season-low in points. WSU led 32-27 at the half and then shot nearly 64% in the second half to pull away from the Trojans. USC shot a season-low 34% from the field, with sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart leading the way with 14 points. Jeff Varem scored a game-high 21 on 10-of-13 shooting for the Cougars. It was USC's fourth-straight loss.

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. Since then, the left-handed Stewart is averaging 16.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting .500 from the field. He has scored in double figures in 12 consecutive games. He also has scored 20 points or more five times in that stretch. In the last 10 games he is shooting a stellar 61-of-119 from the field (.512). In his career, he has seven games of 20 points or more. He is USC's leading scorer this year (14.7), eighth in the Pac-10.

Lodrick Stewart IN THE LAST 12 GAMES

OPP	FG/FGA	FG%	3FG	3FG%	PtsBYU	7-16	.438	2-6	.333	22FSU	4-11	.364	1-3	.333	12USD	11-19	.579	5-11	.455	27WMU	8-14	.571	4-9	.444	21ISU	3-9	.333	2-4	.500	11UAB	6-10	.600	2-6	.333	14Hawaii	4-9	.444	2-7	.286	12Southern	7-12	.583	5-9	.556	20Oregon	9-16	.563	5-12	.417	25OSU	5-12	.417	4-9	.444	14UW	4-8	.500	1-4	.250	10WSU	4-10	.400	4-8	.500	14TOT--	72-146	.493	37-88	.420	16.9

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 ninth in assists (3.8 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (10.5 avg.). He has shot .500 or better from the field in nine of USC's 15 games.

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 12.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in the last six games. He scored a career-high 21 points against Oregon in his Pac-10 debut on 9-of-17 shooting, while also grabbing 7 rebounds. Against Washington, he had 20 points and 7 rebounds.

SENIORITIS -- The Trojans have 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 11,152 minutes, scored 3,923 points, snagged 2,197 rebounds and dished out 691 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 in their last home game. 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 has transferred to Auburn.

STEAL THIS NOTE -- USC led the Pac-10 in steals last year with an average of 8.89 steals per game. They are second in the league this year with an average of 9.13 per game. That average puts USC on pace to challenge the school record of 287 steals set in 2001-2002.

3-POINT KINGS -- The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (7.53). USC is 6-0 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers.

ASSISTS IMPROVEMENT -- 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 results 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, the Trojans have improved to an average of 15.33 assists per game.

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.

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.

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