USC Goes For Fifth Consecutive Win Over UCLA In Men's Basketball
Jan. 25, 2005
Los Angeles -
The USC men's basketball team--now 9-10 overall and 2-6 in Pac-10 play--looks for its fifth-straight win over archrival UCLA as the Trojans and Bruins square off at the Sports Arena on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 1 p.m. The game will be televised live by Fox Sports Net. USC, coming off a loss to Stanford, is trying to crawl out of the cellar of the Pac-10 while UCLA is looking to break a three-game losing skid. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 7-8 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia, who coached at UCLA as an assistant for seven years. Troy is led by three talented underclassmen in the back court: sophomore shooting guard Lodrick Stewart (14.7 ppg), freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt (11.4 ppg) and freshman swingman Nick Young (10.5 ppg). Six seniors are also featured.
SCOUTING UCLA -- The Bruins are 10-6 overall and 4-4 in conference under second-year coach Ben Howland. UCLA is led by smooth senior forward Dijon Thompson (16.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and savvy freshman point guard Jordan Farmar (13.0 ppg, 5.0 apg).
NEW COACH ON THE HORIZON -- It's been a coaching whirlwind for USC this season. First ninth-year coach Henry Bibby was fired on Dec. 6, and replaced by interim coach Jim Saia. Then former Utah coach Rick Majerus took the job on Dec. 15, only to back out five days later, citing health reasons. Last Friday, Jan. 14, saw the hiring of Tim Floyd, who previously coached in college at Iowa State (where he had great success, posting three-straight 20-win seasons). Floyd will spend this season as a Trojan assistant so that he can recruit, but he will not be involved in coaching the 2004-2005 USC team. Saia will finish out this season for Troy.
LEXUS GAUNTLET RAMIFICATIONS -- The winner of this game will pick up 10 points in the battle for the Lexus Gauntlet, the year-round all-sports competition between USC and UCLA. The Bruins currently lead the race, 22.5-20.
NEXT UP -- The Trojans hit the road to take on the Washington schools next week.
LAST GAME -- USC's modest win streak snapped at two games as Stanford beat the Trojans, 78-70, in the Sports Arena on Saturday, Jan. 22. Troy led by as much as eight in the first half and by six with 10 minutes to go, but turnovers killed USC down the stretch as Stanford beat the Trojans for the third-consecutive time. Freshman Gabe Pruitt paced USC with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including a personal-best five three pointers.
HOT LOD -- 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 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting .494 from the field. He has scored in double figures in 14 of his last 16 games. He also has scored 20 points or more six times in that stretch (including a career-high 27 against San Diego). In his career, he has eight games of 20 points or more . He is USC's leading scorer this year (14.7), tied for ninth in the Pac-10. He is sixth in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.435) and is second in 3-pointers made (2.84 pg). He averages a team-best 15.3 points in conference games.
Lodrick Stewart IN THE LAST 16 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 14ARIZ 3-10 .300 2-7 .285 8ASU 6-11 .545 5-9 .555 19CAL 7-9 .777 4-4 1.000 23STAN 4-10 .400 1-3 .333 9TOT-- 92-186 .494 49-111 .441 16.3
PRUITT CAN DO IT -- Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt--known as 'Smilin' Gabe' to Sports Arena PA announcer Peteros Papadakis because of his happy demeanor--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 is second in the Pac-10 in steals (2.00 per game) and is ninth in assists (3.63 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (11.4 avg.) and minutes (29.9) and leads the playing rotation in free throw percentage (.738), assists (3.6) and steals (2.0). He has shot .500 or better from the field in 12 of USC's 19 games. After coming off the bench in the first three games of the season, he then started the next 12 at the point and did a capable job. The last four games, however, he has come off the bench. In those four games Pruitt has averaged 15.0 points on 17-of-29 shooting (.586) from the field overall,12-of-18 from 3-point range (.666) and 14-of-17 from the free throw line (.823).
NOODLES -- 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--whose nickname is 'Noodles'--making the most noise of late. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young is averaging 13.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in the last 11 games and is averaging 13.8 points in conference through eight games (second on the squad). He has three 20-point games in his last eight outings (all conference games). He had a fine outing a couple weeks ago in the desert against the Arizona schools, scoring 18 against the Wildcats and a career-high 22 against ASU. He also put up 21 points against Oregon in his Pac-10 debut and tallied 20 points and 7 rebounds against Washington.
YOUTH IS NOT WASTED ON YOUNG, PRUITT AND STEWART -- Sophomore Lod Stewart and freshmen Gabe Pruiit and Nick Young are the top three scorers on the Trojan basketball team. Between the three of them, they account for 49% of USC's points scored this season (696 out of 1,425). They average a combined 36.6 points per game.
OLD FRIENDS -- Young and UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar were rivals in high school in the San Fernando Valley and are still good friends. Young played for Cleveland High while Farmar played for Taft. In their last meeting, Young's squad came out on top as he poured in 36 points.
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 11,601 minutes, scored 4,063 points, snagged 2,292 rebounds and dished out 726 assists in their careers.
THE TANK IS ROLLING -- Jeff 'Tank' McMillan is USC's leading returning rebounder from last season when he averaged 8.6 boards to garner Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year honors. This season, he has been slowed by a broken hand that he suffered in game three against La Salle, but in the last three games he is averaging 10.3 rebounds and 10.3 points.
BALANCING ACTS -- USC is 5-0 this year in games where at least five players score in double figures.
3-POINT KINGS -- The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (7.58). USC is 7-0 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 15.53 assists per game (fourth in the conference).
TOUGH SCHEDULE -- USC's schedule this season has been nothing short of brutal. The Trojans' opponents going into this week have a combined record of 204-127 (.616). That's an average record of about 11-7 for each team. Only three opponents that USC has faced have losing records, while 11 have 10 or more wins. Three are ranked among the top 12 in the polls.
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.