USC Takes On UCLA In Crosstown Showdown
Feb. 22, 2005
Los Angeles -
The USC men's basketball team--now 11-15 overall and 4-11 in Pac-10 play--goes for its third-straight win at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion as it takes on the resurgent Bruins (14-9, 8-7) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be telecast live on Fox Sports Net 2. No Trojan team has ever beaten the Bruins three-straight in Pauley dating back to when the building opened in 1965. It's the return of USC interim coach Jim Saia to Westwood, where he was a top assistant under Steve Lavin from 1997-2003. USC is trying to crawl out of the cellar of the Pac-10 in time to make the conference tournament in early March and has won two of its last three. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 9-13 under Saia's direction. New coach Tim Floyd is waiting in the wings to take over at Troy when the season concludes.
SCOUTING USC -- The Trojans are led by two of the top freshmen in the Pac-10: Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Candidate Gabe Pruitt (12.7 ppg, team-best .450 from 3-point range) and explosive 6-6 swingman Nick Young (11.5 ppg), who is tied with UCLA's Jordan Farmar for the lead among Pac-10 frosh in conference scoring (13.9, with Pruitt a shade behind at 13.8). But the Trojans' leading scorer is lights-out shooter Lodrick Stewart, a sophomore who averages13.0 ppg. USC has six seniors--the most on any team in the Pac-10.
SCOUTING UCLA -- The Bruins are led by senior forward Dijon Thompson (18.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg), who is among the most versatile players in the Pac-10. On his heels are three talented freshmen led by point guard Jordan Farmar (13.5 ppg, 5.13 apg), guard Arron Afflalo (10.2 ppg) and forward Josh Shipp (9.0 ppg). UCLA is coming off a 78-65 loss at Stanford. The Bruins are 9-3 at home this season, but have dropped three of their last four at Pauley.
LEXUS GAUNTLET -- This game is worth five points in the battle for the Lexus Gauntlet, the annual all-sports contest between USC and UCLA. The Bruins currently lead, 35-20.
NEXT UP -- The Trojans close out their regular season by hosting Oregon on Thursday, March 3, and Oregon State on Saturday, March 5. Both games will be played at the Sports Arena at 7:30 p.m.
LAST GAME -- Freshman Gabe Pruitt hit five 3-pointers in the first half, and Jeff McMillan had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead USC to its second road victory of the season, 89-70 over California on Saturday, Feb. 19. Pruitt scored all 19 of his points before halftime, and Nick Young added 15 for the Trojans, who swept Cal for the firsttime since 2001. USC built a 13-point halftime lead and led by as much as 24 in the second half. The Trojans had a season-high 26 assists and notched five players in double figures for the sixth time this season.
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.
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 are noted later, Young--nicknamed 'Noodles'-- is making quite a name for himself lately. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young leads the team in scoring in conference games at 13.9 ppg--tied with Jordan Farmar of UCLA for highest in-conference scoring average for a Pac-10 freshman. He has four games of 20 points or more this season and is quickly becoming known around the league for his highlight-reel dunks and acrobatic moves around the basket. In his first game against the Bruins, he led the Trojans with a career-high-tying 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (including 3-of-4 from 3-point range). He has scored in double figures in 10 of 15 Pac-10 games. In the last four contests, he is averaging 15.0 ppg.
Gabriel Pruitt2005 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Candidate6-4, 180, Los Angeles, CA
Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young point guards in the country. He is known as 'Smilin' Gabe' to Sports Arena PA announcer Petros Papadakis because of his pleasant demeanor on the court.
Smilin' Gabe's Overall Averages Through 25 GamesPoints Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes12.7 2.7 3.3 2.0 .485 .700 .450 30.7
In Conference Through 15 Games--Points Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes13.8 2.7 2.6 1.8 .486 .711 .494 30.6
Reasons for Gabe to Smile:
He leads all Pac-10 freshmen in points scored (331), 3-point FG% (.450), 3-point FGs made (59) and steals (52). He is second among all freshman in assists (86) and is third in overall scoring average (12.7).
In conference games, his 13.8 ppg is just a shade behind the 13.9 average shared by teammate Nick Young and UCLA's Jordan Farmar for highest average in Pac-10 games by a freshman.
His .450 shooting from 3-point range is the best percentage in USC history and currently fourth-best in the Pac-10
He is second in the conference in steals at 2.0 per game
He has a chance to become the first freshman to lead USC in scoring since Harold Miner in 1990
His .485 FG% is the best-ever by a Trojan freshman guard
He has hit at least one 3-pointer in 24 of 26 games this year
He is just one 3-pointer shy of Harold Miner's USC freshman record for 3-pointers made in a season (60)
In his last 2 games, he is averaging 21.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg and 2.0 spg, while shooting .520 from the field (13-of-25) and .600 from 3-point range (12-of-20)
In his last 4 games, he is averaging 19.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg and 2.0 spg, while shooting .490 from the field (25-of-51) and 18-of-34 from 3-point range (.529)
In his last 8 games, he is averaging 17.1 ppg on 47-of-93 from the field (.505) and 30-of-56 from 3-point range (.535)
In his last 11 games, he is averaging 14.1ppg on 56-of-111 from the field (.504) and 37-of-66 from 3-point range (.560)
He has led USC in scoring in 4 of the last 6 games and in 5 of the last 8 and a total of 8 times on the season
His 12.7 ppg is the fourth-highest scoring average ever by a USC freshman and best since Harold Miner averaged 20.6 ppg on his way to earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors in 1990
His 86 assists is the fifth-most by a Trojan freshman
He has shot 50% or better from the field in 15 of USC's 26 games
His seven 3-pointers against Stanford was the second most in a game in USC history
LOD AND CLEAR -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart is one of the top outside shooters in the Pac-10, with a stroke that is hard to stop once it gets going. He leads the Trojans in scoring this season (13.0 ppg). He has scored in double figures in 17 games this season and has scored 20 points or more six times, including a career-and-USC-season-high 27 against San Diego. In his career, he has eight games of 20 points or more. Coming into this week, he is seventh in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.417) and second in 3-pointers made (2.62 pg). His 68 3-pointers made this year are the most ever by a Trojan sophomore and tied for sixth on the all-time USC single-season 3-point list. His .417 shooting from beyond the arc is the best-ever percentage by a Trojan sophomore.
YOUTH IS NOT WASTED ON YOUNG, PRUITT AND STEWART -- Sophomore Lod Stewart and freshmen Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young are the top three scorers on the Trojan basketball team. Between the three of them, they account for 50.2% of USC's points scored this season (966 out of 1,925). They average a combined 37.1 points per game. In conference play, they have scored 595 of USC's 1,077 points--55% of USC's total (39.6 points per game). Stewart (8 times), Pruitt (8 times) and Young (5 times) have led the Trojans in scoring in 21 of USC's 26 games. This is the first time in USC history that neither a junior or senior is among the top three in scoring for the Trojans.
BABY SHAQ IS BACK! -- In game one against UC Irvine, junior guard Dwayne `Baby Shaq' Shackleford made a big splash with 12 points, then didn't reach double figures again until game 24 against ASU, when he scored 10. He added 11 against Stanford to go with a then-career-high 5 assists. H e then topped that mark with 7 assists against California. So in the last three games, Shackleford has been a boost off the bench at the point guard spot, averaging 8.6 points and 5.0 assists while making 6-of-13 three pointers (.460).
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 12,071 minutes, scored 4,233 points, snagged 2,400 rebounds and dished out 759 assists in their careers.
BALANCING ACTS -- USC is 6-0 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 (8.0). USC is 9-2 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers. In the past four games, the Trojans are 43-of-98 (.438) from beyond the arc, hitting at least 10 threes in each of those games. The Trojans have hit 23 3-pointers in their last two games.
ROAD WOES -- The Trojans have only two road wins this year--a 98-94 victory over Arizona State on Jan. 15 in Tempe and last week's 89-70 win over Cal. If USC fails to beat UCLA, it will have its fewest road wins in a season since also winning two in 1990.
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.
SENIORS AND UCLA -- The current crop of USC seniors are 5-2 against UCLA. Technically, however, senior foward Gregg Guenther has been on teams that went 9-2 against the Bruins--when you count his stint with the USC football team from 2000-2003.
CURRENT TROJANS AGAINST UCLA
Player GP PPG RPG APG High PtsDerrick Craven 5 7.8 2.6 2.8 11Errick Craven 7 12.4 4.9 2.6 24Nick Curtis 6 2.2 3.2 0.2 11Gregg Guenther 4 4.0 4.3 1.0 8Jeff McMillan 3 11.0 10.0 0.6 19Rory O'Neil 7 4.9 3.7 1.1 12Gabe Pruitt 1 19.0 0.0 3.0 19Dwayne Shackleford 0 -- -- -- --Lodrick Stewart 3 3.7 1.0 1.3 6Nick Young 1 22.0 7.0 1.0 22
IMPROVEMENT ON OFFENSE -- The 1-4 Ralph Miller offense installed by Jim Saia this season has resulted in some improved statistics for USC on that side of the ball. The Trojans are better than last year in shooting percentage (.449 vs. .432), 3pt FG% (.367 vs. .308) and assists (15.4 per game vs. 13.6 per game).
LOTSA ASSISTS -- Speaking of assists, USC had a season-high 26 against California last Saturday, which was its most since also getting 26 against Arizona State in 1998.
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.
FLOYD -- Tim Floyd, who has 17 years of head coaching experience at the collegiate and NBA levels, was hired on Jan. 14 as the head men's basketball coach at USC, effective on April 1, 2005, Trojan athletic director Mike Garrett announced. Floyd will spend this year as a Trojan assistant so that he can recruit, but he will not be involved in coaching the 2004-05 Trojans. Jim Saia, who was appointed USC's interim head coach when Henry Bibby was relieved of his duties as head coach on Dec. 6, will remain in that role the remainder of this season. Floyd, 50, served as a college head coach at Idaho, New Orleans and Iowa State before NBA head coaching stints awith the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. He had great success during his 12 seasons at the college level, going 243-130 (.651) overall with 5 NCAA Tournament appearances.
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