USC Hosts Arizona, Arizona State
Feb. 8, 2005
Los Angeles -
The USC men's basketball team--now 9-13 overall and 2-9 in Pac-10 play--looks to snap a four-game losing streak as it hosts No. 12 Arizona (19-4, 9-2) on Thursday, Feb. 10, and Arizona State (16-7, 5-6) on Saturday, Feb. 12. Both games are at 7:30 p.m. PT at the Sports Arena and will be aired live on Fox Sports West 2. USC, coming off a loss to Washington State, is trying to crawl out of the cellar of the Pac-10 in time to make the conference tournament in early March. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 7-11 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia. Troy is led by three talented underclassmen in the back court: sophomore shooting guard Lodrick Stewart (13.9 ppg), freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt (11.5 ppg) and freshman swingman Nick Young (10.8 ppg). Six seniors are also featured.
SCOUTING ARIZONA -- The Wildcats sport one of the most talented starting fives in the country, led by deadly long-distance bomber Salim Stoudamire (17.4 ppg), who is shooting an astounding .544 from 3-point range. Big man Channing Frye (15.0 ppg) and explosive guard Hassan Adams (12.2 ppg) also have the ability to take over games when necessary. The Wildcats lead the league in free throw shooting (.784) and 3-point shooting (.406).
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. 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.
NEXT UP -- The Trojans head to the Bay Area to take on Stanford and California next week before returning to Los Angeles to play UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
LAST GAME -- USC lost its fourth-consecutive game, as hot-shooting Washington State beat the Trojans, 61-53, in Pullman, to complete its second consecutive season sweep of USC. Once again, Troy played well in spots and was in the game until the end as USC and WSU were tied at 49-49 with just under five minutes to play. But the Cougars outscored the Trojans 12-4 from that point, aided by a technical foul call on USC coach Jim Saia. The Cougars were 21-of-38 from the field (.553) and held USC to just 21 out of 51 shooting (.412). Four Cougars scored in double figures, while Gabe Pruitt led the Trojans with 10 points. Amazingly, WSU did not grab a single offensive rebound.
HOT LOD -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart is one of the top outside shooters in the Pac-10. He leads the Trojans in scoring this season (13.9 ppg). He has scored in double figures in 15 of the last 19 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 fifth in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.429) and is second in 3-pointers made (2.73 pg).
SMILIN' GABE PRUITT -- Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt--known as 'Smilin' Gabe' to Sports Arena PA announcer Petros 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 (3.36 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (11.5 avg.) and minutes (29.9 and leads the playing rotation in free throw percentage (.727), assists and steals. A starter in 15 games at point, he has shot .500 or better from the field in 13 of USC's 22 games. As a result, his current .484 shooting from the field is tied with Jacque Hill for the best ever by a Trojan freshman guard. In conference games, he is shooting .468 from 3-point range, fourth-best in the league. In the last seven games Pruitt is averaging 13.7 points on 31-of-59 shooting (.533) from the field overall,19-of-30 from 3-point range (.633) and 15-of-19 from the free throw line (.789).
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-- nicknamed 'Noodles'--who is making the most noise of late. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young is averaging 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in the last 14 games. He is tied with Lod Stewart for the team scoring lead in conference games (13.5) and leads all Pac-10 freshman in conference scoring. He has four games of 20 points or more in his last 11 outings.
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 49.3% of USC's points scored this season (797 out of 1,616). They average a combined 36.2 points per game.
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 11,823 minutes, scored 4,145 points, snagged 2,342 rebounds and dished out 743 assists in their careers.
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 (7.50). 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 15.00 assists per game (fourth in the conference).
EARLY SIGNEES -- With only four scholarship players scheduled to return next season, the Trojans will have several scholarship opportunities available. USC has already signed two players for 2005-2006: 6-8 small forward Mike Freeman of Alexandria, VA, and 6-3 shooting guard Sead Odzic of Skokie, IL.
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.