USC Faces Seton Hall In First Round Of Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Nov. 19, 2008

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SAN JUAN, PR -- The USC Trojans (2-0) face the Seton Hall Pirates (2-0) on Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. PT at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, PR in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. the Galen Center. USC is 2-0 to start a season for the first time since 2000-01 when it began 8-0. The game will be shown live on ESPNU.

BREAKING DOWN THE PIRATES -- The Pirates are 2-0, having defeated St. Francis (88-61) and Columbia (71-50). Leading SHU in scoring in the first two games is sophomore guard Jeremy Hazell with 22.0 points per game. USC and Seton Hall have split their only two previous meetings, the Trojans wining 79-68 during the 1974 season and the Pirates winning 92-72 in the 1995 season. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Memphis/Chattanooga game on Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. PT, while the losers will square off the same day at 2 p.m. PT.

TROJANS DEFEAT NMSU -- Taj Gibson matched a career high with 22 points to lead USC to a 73-60 win over visiting New Mexico State on Nov. 18 at the Galen Center. Gibson added 10 rebounds and five blocks for his 17th career double-double. USC had a Galen Center-record 10 blocks and held the Aggies to 31.7 percent shooting.

ON DECK: USC's next game will be against either Memphis (2-0) or Chattanooga (0-2). 2007 NCAA runner-up Memphis has wins over Fairfield (90-63) and UMass (80-58) with freshman Tyreke Evans leading the way with 19.0 points per game. The Moc have lost road games at Tennessee (114-75) and at Missouri (103-75) with three players averaging at least 14 points.

THE 2008-09 TROJANS -- USC returns three starters from last year's team which went 21-12, tied for third in the Pac-10 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Leading the way are junior All-Pac-10 forward Taj Gibson, junior guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis and senior forward Keith Wilkinson. Three other key members returning to health this season after injury-marred 2007-08 seasons are forwards Kasey Cunningham and Mamadou Diarra and guard Marcus Simmons. The other returning players are guards James Dunleavy (redshirted last season), Terence Green and Ryan Wetherell.

NEW ADDITIONS -- The Trojans have added seven new players to the 2008-09 roster which returns 10 players from last season's squad. USC's incoming class, ranked No. 7 by HoopScoop, features consensus top five recruit DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan was named by CollegeHoops.net as a preseason All-America honorable mention. Also in this recruiting class is guard Donte Smith, forward Leonard Washington, guard Percy Miller and walk-on J.J. Meyers. Another addition is small forward Marcus Johnson who transfered from UConn last spring and will be eligible after the first semester.

STEPHESON WAIVER PETITION DENIED -- Talented forward Alex Stepheson had his transfer waiver petition denied by the NCAA on Nov. 19 and will not be eligible for competition this season. Stepheson had requested eligibility for USC this season after transferring from North Carolina this fall due to family health concerns.

IN TIM WE TRUST -- Tim Floyd has an impressive track record in the collegiate ranks along with his NBA experience. He brings 21 years of head coaching experience at the collegiate and NBA levels and owns a 308-167 record in his 16 seasons as a college head coach at Idaho (1987-88), New Orleans (1989-94), Iowa State (1995-98) and USC (2005-08). He won his 300th career game on Feb. 7, 2008 at Washington. Floyd posted a 63-37 record in his first three seasons as USC's head coach, the most wins by a Trojan coach in his first three seasons. Ten of his first 15 seasons, Floyd has taken his team into the postseason (7 NCAA, 3 NIT). Floyd has helped the development of his student-athletes at each stop, as 13 players in his 15 years have made it to the NBA, including three players that did not even play high school ball.

PINCH-HITTING FOR MARKAS -- USC play-by-play announcer Rory Markas of flagship station 710 ESPN Radio had surgery to remove a blood clot from the side of his head on Nov. 3 and is expected to make a full recovery. While Markas is sidelined, stepping in for the broadcasts of UC Irvine and New Mexico State was Los Angeles Angels' play-by-play announcer Steve Physioc. Former Trojan Isaac Lowenkron of AM 570 KLAC will announce the games in Puerto Rico. Markas will be back to announce his 11th season of USC basketball as soon as he returns to health.

A HISTORY OF WINNING -- The Trojans have compiled a record of 1,440-1,029 in their 103 years of intercollegiate basketball competition. The Trojans have had a .500 or better record in 73 of the first 102 seasons.

TROJANS IN THE RANKINGS -- USC is currently ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.

TROJAN RETURNS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PAC -- The Trojans are in the middle of the Pac-10 in returning production with 54.5 percent of their scoring (6th) and 70.0 percent of their rebounding (4th) back from the 2007-08 season. USC also enters the season with the conference's leading active career shot blocker in Taj Gibson (153) who also is sixth in career points (807) and third in career rebounds among current Pac-10 players. Daniel Hackett's 97 career assists entering this season are the ninth-highest among returning Pac-10 players.

USC PICKED TO FINISH THIRD IN PAC-10: At the annual Pac-10 Media Day held on Oct. 30, USC was picked to finish third in the Pac-10 Conference in a vote by the league media. UCLA was picked first with 379 votes, followed by Arizona State (325), USC (292), Arizona (241), Washington (217), Washington State (188), Oregon (147), California (143), Stanford (115) and Oregon State (40). USC was picked to finish sixth in 2007-08 and finished tied for third.

2007-08 SEASON IN REVIEW -- The Trojans went 21-12 in 2007-08, tied for third in the Pac-10 Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Leading the way was All-Pac-10 freshman guard O.J. Mayo who averaged 20.7 points per game and led all players in conference games with a 21.8 average. Not only did USC play in the top conference in the country, but the Trojans also played a rigorous non-conference schedule which included both 2008 NCAA finalists Kansas and Memphis. USC lost by four points at home to eventual NCAA Champion Kansas and by four points in overtime to NCAA runner-up Memphis at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. USC's top five players all averaged 8.6 points or more per game and the team held opponents to 39.4 percent shooting, tops among conference teams and among the best in the country. USC's freshmen and sophomores accounted for 96 percent of the Trojans' scoring, the highest percentage in the nation.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR -- USC's roster includes four players from outside of the country. Guards Daniel Hackett from Italy and Ryan Wetherell from Canada begin their third season with the Trojans, while forward Mamadou Diarra of Mali enters his second and forward Nikola Vucevic from Montenegro begins his first season at USC.

INJURY UPDATES -- None!

GIBSON A PRESEASON WOODEN AWARD CANDIDATE -- For the second consecutive season, USC forward Taj Gibson is listed as one of the 50 preseason Wooden Award candidates. Gibson is the first Trojan so listed since 2001 when Sam Clancy and David Bluthenthal were Wooden Award candidates and Clancy was a Naismith candidate. Gibson averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a sophomore, while setting the USC single-season blocked shots record with 83. Gibson is also listed as an Athlon Preseason All-American (HM) and No. 6 on Lindy's list of top centers.

DEROZAN NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM -- USC freshman DeMar DeRozan has been named to the CollegeHoops.net All-Freshman team. DeRozan was a McDonald's All-American and averaged 29.2 points his senior season at Compton High in Compton, Calif. Athlon Sports also named DeRozan to the preseason Pac-10 all-conference third team. DeRozan is also listed as a third-team selection to The Sporting News Preseason All-America team, the No. 9 small forward by Lindy's and the No. 3 freshman by Lindy's.

HACKETT IS MONEY FROM THE LINE -- USC junior Daniel Hackett made .823 percent of his free throws last season (79 of 96) to finish fifth among Pac-10 players from the line. He is 7-for-8 this season and his career free throw percentage of .810 (170 of 210) currently ranks second all-time among Trojan players. Dating back to the game on March 6, 2008 vs. California, Hackett made 18 consecutive free throws before missing his final one against New Mexico State on Nov. 18.

LONG-RANGE LEWIS -- Junior Dwight Lewis entered the season with 51 career three-pointers made, the most on the USC roster. He hit all three he took in the second half vs. UCI and needs 13 three-point baskets this season to crack the Trojans' all-time top 20 in shots made from beyond the arc. He leads all returning Trojans in points scored, three-point baskets made and shots taken in the 2007-08 season. He and Taj Gibson are the Trojans' top returners in points per game, as they both averaged 10.8 last season.

FACING THE BEST -- USC's 2008-09 schedule features a potential 23 games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2007-08, including 14 that won 20 or more games. Also, nine of the teams that USC is set to face were in last year's tournament, including two games each with the five other Pac-10 teams which were in the NCAA Tournament. 'We think we have put together a great schedule for the USC fans,' said Floyd. 'At the same time, as challenging as our schedule was last season with Kansas, Memphis and Oklahoma, if you look at the RPI from a year ago this non-conference slate is even tougher.'

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 38 teams to under 60 points in Tim Floyd's first 102 games as USC's head coach. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have accomplished the feat 54 times in the first 102 games under Floyd that USC has held its opponents to 40 percent shooting or less. USC was outshot from the field in just five of 33 games last season. USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 61 of the last 72 games.

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