Men's Basketball Closes Out Regular Season By Hosting Oregon, Oregon State
March 1, 2005
The USC men's basketball team--now 11-16 overall and 4-12 in Pac-10 play--closes out its regular season with home games against Oregon (13-12, 5-11) and Oregon State (16-11, 8-8). Both matchups tipoff at 7:30 p.m. USC is hoping to squeeze its way into the Pac-10 tournament that starts next week. To do so, the Trojans will need to at least defeat the Ducks on Thursday. The Trojans are led by the top two freshmen in the Pac-10: conference Freshman of the Year candidate Gabe Pruitt, a point guard who leads his fellow freshman in scoring in league games, and explosive swingman Nick Young, who is second among all freshman in conference scoring. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 9-14 under interim coach Jim Saia's direction. New coach Tim Floyd is waiting in the wings to take over at Troy when the season concludes.
SCOUTING OREGON -- The Ducks are a young team led by sharp-shooting sophomore point guard Aaron Brooks (14.6 ppg) and outstanding freshmen Malik Hairston (13.1 ppg) and Bryce Taylor (11.2 ppg). Oregon is the second-best shooting team in the league at .466 from the field. The Ducks also lead the conference in rebounding defense (31.5 rpg). After starting out 9-1 on the year, Oregon has dropped 11 of its past 15. The Ducks are coming off a tough 58-56 loss to Stanford.
SCOUTING OREGON STATE -- The Beavers are having their best season since 1989-90, when that team won 22 games. OSU is led by All-Pac-10 forward David Lucas (18.3 ppg), who has scored over 20 in six of his last eight games. The Beavers have an 8-1 home mark, but are just 0-7 on the road. They are coming off wins over Stanford and California.
PAC-10 TOURNEY OR BUST? -- USC has played in all seven of the tournaments the conference has held (1987-90, 2002-2004). The Trojans seem to do well once they make it in, having advanced to the championship game two of the last three years.
ANOTHER TOUGH YEAR -- USC has all but clinched its third-consecutive losing season, the first time that has happened at Troy since 1988-90.
LAST GAME -- Aaron Afflalo had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Dijon Thompson added 17 points and five assists to lead UCLA to a 90-69 victory over USC on Thursday, Feb. 24. USC had its worst defensive effort of the season, yielding an opponent-season-high 60.7% shooting from the Bruins, while shooting just 41.5% from the field. Jeff McMillan led USC with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Rory O'Neil added 11 points and Gabe Pruitt scored 10. USC was swept by the Bruins for the first time since the 2001 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 is second on the team in scoring in conference games at 13.2 ppg--second to Pruitt and Jordan Farmar of UCLA in 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 Ducks, he led the Trojans with a career-high 21 points, while adding 7 rebounds. He has scored in double figures in 10 of 16 Pac-10 games. In the last five contests, he is averaging 12.5 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 27 GamesPoints Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes12.6 2.7 3.3 1.96 .482 .700 .452 30.5
In Conference Through 15 Games--Points Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes13.6 2.6 2.6 1.8 .481 .711 .494 30.4
Reasons for Gabe to Smile:
He leads all Pac-10 freshmen in points scored (341), 3-point FG% (.452), 3-point FGs made (61) and steals (53). He is second among all freshman in assists (88) and is third in overall scoring average (12.6 ppg).
In conference games, his 13.6 ppg is tied with UCLA's Jordan Farmar for best scoring average by a Pac-10 freshman.
His .452 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 1.96 per game
He has a chance to become the first freshman to lead USC in scoring since Harold Miner in 1990
His .482 FG% is the second-best-ever by a Trojan freshman guard
He has hit at least one 3-pointer in 25 of 27 games this year and at least two in his last six games
He holds the USC record for 3-pointers by a freshman with 61 (Harold Miner was the former record holder with 60)
In his last 3 games, he is averaging 17.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg and 1.7 spg, while shooting .485 from the field (17-of-35) and .583 from 3-point range (14-of-24)
In his last 5 games, he is averaging 17.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg and 1.8 spg, while shooting .475 from the field (29-of-61) and 20-of-38 from 3-point range (.526)
In his last 9 games, he is averaging 16.3 ppg on 51-of-103 from the field (.495) and 32-of-60 from 3-point range (.533)
In his last 13 games, he is averaging 14.2 ppg on 60-of-121 from the field (.495) and 39-of-70 from 3-point range (.557)
He has led USC in scoring in 4 of the last 7 games and in 5 of the last 9 and a total of 8 times on the season
His 12.6 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 88 assists is the fifth-most by a Trojan freshman
He has shot 50% or better from the field in 15 of USC's 27 games
He has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 12 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 (12.7 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 eighth in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.411) and third in 3-pointers made (2.56 pg). His 69 3-pointers made this year are the most ever by a Trojan sophomore and sixth on the all-time USC single-season 3-point list. His .411 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 49.3% of USC's points scored this season (984 out of 1,994). They average a combined 36.4 points per game. In conference play, they have scored 613 of USC's 1,146 points--53.4% of USC's total (38.3 points per game). Stewart (8 times), Pruitt (8 times) and Young (5 times) have led the Trojans in scoring in 21 of USC's 27 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. In the last four games, Shackleford has been a boost off the bench at the point guard spot, averaging 8.0 points and 4.3 assists while making 8-of-18 three pointers (.444).
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 12,159 minutes, scored 4,273 points, snagged 2,417 rebounds and dished out 762 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 (8.1). USC is 9-3 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers. In the past five games, the Trojans are 53-of-122 (.434) from beyond the arc, hitting at least 10 threes in each of those games. The Trojans have hit 33 3-pointers in their last three 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. The two wins is USC's 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.
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 (.448 vs. .432), 3pt FG% (.370 vs. .308) and assists (15.3 per game vs. 13.6 per game).
LOTSA ASSISTS -- Speaking of assists, USC had a season-high 26 against California a couple games ago, 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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