USC Hosts Oregon State As Eight Trojan Seniors Make Curtain Calls
March 4, 2005
Los Angeles -
The USC men's basketball team--now 11-17 overall and 4-13 in Pac-10 play--closes out its regular season with a 7:30 p.m. home game against Oregon State (16-12, 8-9) as eight Trojan seniors make their final appearance in cardinal and gold. With a USC win and a Cal loss, Troy can avoid its first last-place conference finish since 1995. The Trojans are led by the top two freshmen in the Pac-10: Freshman of the Year candidate Gabe Pruitt, a point guard who is the only freshman in the conference to lead his team in scoring, and explosive swingman Nick Young, who is tied for second among all freshman in conference scoring. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 9-15 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.
EIGHT MEN (ON THE WAY) OUT -- Seniors Andrew Moore, Edward Chang, Derrick Craven, Errick Craven, Nick Curtis, Gregg Guenther, Jeff McMillan and Rory O'Neil make their final appearance in a USC uniform on Saturday night. Between the eight of them, they have played 12,249 minutes, scored 4,314 points, snagged 2,432 rebounds and dished out 769 assists in their careers.
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 seven of his last nine games. Junior forward Nick DeWitz was just named the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year. The Beavers have an 8-1 home mark in conference, but are just 0-8 on the road. They are coming off a 69-61 loss to UCLA on Thursday night.
ANOTHER TOUGH YEAR -- USC has all but clinched its third-consecutive losing season, the first time that has happened at Troy since 1988-90.
ONE GAME--PLUS ONE YEAR--TO GO -- After the game against Oregon State, the Trojans will officially have one full season of home games left in the Sports Arena before beginning play in the Galen Center--USC's new campus events center--in 2006-2007.
LAST GAME -- Bryce Taylor had 23 points and Maarty Leunen scored five of his seven points in the final 57.1 seconds of overtime, leading Oregon to a 94-87 victory over USC on Thursday night. Nick Young scored 21 points and Rory O'Neill had 17 for the Trojans, who will miss the Pac-10 tournament for the first time in its eight seasons. As the game wound down, Oregon's Aaron Brooks made one of two at the line for the Ducks, and Young's two free throws tied it at 77-all with 40.4 seconds left. The Ducks called a timeout with 27 seconds left to set up a play, but Mitch Platt threw up an 18-foot airball with 5.1 seconds on the clock. The Trojans inbounded after a timeout and Gebriel Pruitt dribbled the length of the court for an apparent game-winning layup, but was called for an offensive charge and fouled out after running into Platt with 1.5 seconds left. It was USC's sixth-straight loss to the Ducks.
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 be at Troy until April 1.
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 (11.5 ppg). 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 tied with Pruitt for the team scoring lead in conference games at 13.6 ppg. He has five 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. He did especially well against the Wildcats, Ducks and Sun Devils this year, averaging 19.7 points on .561 shooting in the six games against those three teams. He has scored in double figures in 11 of 17 Pac-10 games. In the last five contests, he is averaging 13.7 ppg. He is coming off a 21-point effort against the Ducks on Thursday.
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 is second on the Trojans in scoring this season (12.4 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 game, he is eighth in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.407) and fourth in 3-pointers made (2.50 pg). His 70 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 .407 shooting from beyond the arc is the best-ever percentage by a Trojan sophomore.
Gabriel PruittThe Freshman of the Year6-4, 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 28 GamesPoints Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes12.7 2.6 3.2 1.96 .490 .703 .457 30.7
In Conference Through 17 Games--Points Rebounds Assists Steals FG% FT% 3ptFG% Minutes13.6 2.5 2.5 1.7 .494 .714 .500 30.6
Reasons for Gabe to Smile:
He leads all Pac-10 freshmen in points scored (356), 3-point FG% (.457), 3-point FGs made (63) and steals (54). He is second among all freshman in assists (90) and is third in overall scoring average (12.7 ppg).
He is the only Pac-10 freshman to lead his team in scoring and could end up as the first Trojan freshman since Harold Miner in 1990 to do so.
In conference games, his 13.6 ppg is second to UCLA's Jordan Farmar for best scoring average by a Pac-10 freshman.
His .457 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
His .490 FG% is the best-ever by a Trojan freshman guard
He has hit at least one 3-pointer in 26 of 28 games this year and at least two in his last seven games
He holds the USC record for 3-pointers by a freshman with 63 (Harold Miner was the former record holder with 60)
In his last 4 games, he is averaging 16.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 apg and 1.5 spg, while shooting .536 from the field (22-of-41) and .592 from 3-point range (16-of-27)
In his last 6 games, he is averaging 17.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg and 1.7 spg, while shooting .507 from the field (34-of-67) and 22-of-41 from 3-point range (.536)
In his last 10 games, he is averaging 16.2 ppg on 56-of-109 from the field (.513) and 34-of-63 from 3-point range (.539)
In his last 14 games, he is averaging 14.2 ppg on 65-of-127 from the field (.511) and 41-of-73 from 3-point range (.561)
He has led USC in scoring in 4 of the last 8 games and in 5 of the last 10 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 90 assists is the fifth-most by a Trojan freshman
He has shot 50% or better from the field in 16 of USC's 28 games
He has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 13 games
His seven 3-pointers against Stanford was the second most in a game in USChistory
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 49.1% of USC's points scored this season (1,023 out of 2,081). They average a combined 36.5 points per game. In conference play, they have scored 652 of USC's 1,233 points--52.8% of USC's total (38.3 points per game). Stewart (8 times), Pruitt (8 times) and Young (6 times) have led the Trojans in scoring in 22 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. After putting up 6 points and 2 assists against UCLA, he added 11 points and 4 assists against Oregon. So, in the last five games, Shackleford has been a boost off the bench at the point guard spot, averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 assists.
BALANCING ACTS -- USC is 6-1 this year in games where at least five players score in double figures. The first loss in that instance came against Oregon on Thursday.
3-POINT KINGS -- The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (8.1). USC is 9-4 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers. In the past six games, the Trojans are 63-of-145 (.434) from beyond the arc, hitting at least 10 threes in each of those games. The Trojans have hit 43 3-pointers in their last four games.
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 (.450 vs. .432), 3pt FG% (.373 vs. .308) and assists (15.2 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.