USC To Host North Dakota State On Saturday

Dec. 17, 2008

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LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans (6-3) will face the North Dakota State Bison (5-3+) on Dec. 20 at noon in the Galen Center. USC is 5-0 at home this season. The last time the Trojans started the season with more consecutive home wins was during the 2002 season when they began 7-0 at home. Today's game will be shown live on Trojans All-Access, located at USCTrojans.com.

BREAKING DOWN THE BISON -- The Bison are 5-3 with a game vs. Valley City St. on Dec. 18 before facing USC. North Dakota State has four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by seniors Ben Woodside (26.9) and Brent Winkelman (18.1). Woodside scored 60 points in a triple-overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 12. The Trojans and Bison have never met before in basketball.

TROJANS RIDE A WAVE IN VICTORY OVER PEPPERDINE -- USC jumped out to a big halftime lead, but saw the Waves close to within five points in the second half before the Trojans put Pepperdine away 91-77 on Dec. 15 at the Galen Center. USC led 54-31 at the break, but Pepperdine cut the lead to eight points just over four minutes into the second half. The lead stayed in single-digits most of the second half before the Trojans pulled away at the end behind a career-high 25 points from Taj Gibson.

GEORGIA TECH ON DECK -- Georgia Tech is 5-2 with two games before facing USC. Head coach Paul Hewitt is in his ninth season of leading the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech has only six players returning with starting experience and were picked to finish eighth in the ACC, but are off to a strong start with four players averaging double figures in scoring. Sophomore forward Gani Lawal has averaged 18.6 points in the Yellow Jackets' first seven games. USC lost the only meeting all-time against GT, falling 79-78 in the second round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament on a long three-pointer by James Forrest at the buzzer.

TROJANS WINNING THE BOARD GAME -- So far this season, USC has enjoyed a 10.4 rebound edge per game (41.1-30.7). The Trojans have outrebounded the opposition in all nine games. USC had the same amount of rebounds as its opponents last season, and lost the battle of the boards the two previous seasons. The nine consecutive games USC has had more rebounds than its opponent is the best stretch in the Tim Floyd era. USC was outrebounded in 17 of 33 games last season.

NIKOLA FITS IN NICELY -- USC freshman forward Nikola Vucevic was cleared for competition on Dec. 15 by the NCAA Clearinghouse and played that night against Pepperdine, scoring two points, blocking two shots and grabbing two rebounds in six minutes of action. The 6-10 Vucevic is from Bar, Montenegro.

GIBSON CLOSING IN ON SOME MILESTONES -- Taj Gibson has 30 blocks this season and 183 in his career, just 12 blocks behind Sam Clancy's (1999-02) school record of 195 blocks. Gibson also has 954 career points, 46 away from becoming the 33rd Trojan in history to reach the 1,000 career points scored club.

A HISTORY OF WINNING -- The Trojans have compiled a record of 1,444-1,032 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 not currently ranked. USC began the season ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 21 in both the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and CBSSportsline.com Poll.

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.

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 -- Kasey Cunningham, injured on Nov. 23 vs. Missouri, had reconstructive surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 26. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Guard Percy Miller has a concussion and is listed as day-to-day. Guard Ryan Wetherell has an eye injury and is expected to miss at least several more games.

TAJ HAS BEEN A TOWER OF POWER -- Taj Gibson has averaged 16.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in USC's first nine games, including five double-doubles giving him 21 in his career (22 points/10 rebounds vs. NMSU, 19 points/18 rebounds vs. SHU and 17 points/15 rebounds vs. UTC, 12 points/10 rebounds at Oklahoma, 25 points/11 rebounds vs. Pepperdine). The 25 points on Dec. 15 vs. Pepperdine was a career high and the 18 rebounds on Nov. 20 vs. SHU tied a career high. His 18 rebounds vs. Seton Hall, along with SHU's John Garcia, established a new Puerto Rico Tip-Off single-game record.

HE CAN SURE HACKETT -- Junior point guard Daniel Hackett recorded a career-high 13 assists in the game at Oklahoma on Dec. 4. His assist total was the most by a Trojan since Brandon Granville set the school record with 15 vs. Memphis on Nov. 23, 1999. Hackett's 13 assists are tied for the fourth most in a single game by a USC player, along with Larry Friend (13 on Dec. 6, 1985 vs. ASU) and Casey Jones (13 on Dec. 18, 1976 vs. Baylor). Hackett leads all conference players with 62 assists.

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 33-for-39 this season (.846) and his career free throw percentage of .813 (196 of 241) currently ranks second all-time among Trojan players. Hackett made 18 consecutive free throws dating back to last season, before missing his final one against New Mexico St. on Nov. 18 and has hit 44 of his last 50 (.880).

LEWIS LIGHTING IT UP -- Junior Dwight Lewis entered the season with 51 career three-pointers made, the most on the USC roster. He has made a team-leading 15 three-pointers this season and needs two more to move past Rory O'Neill (67) for 20th on USC's all-time three-point baskets made list. Lewis scored a career-high 26 points in the 74-69 win vs. USF on Dec. 1 and followed that up with 25 points at Oklahoma on Dec. 4, his two best career scoring outputs. He has scored in double figures in all nine games this season. Prior to this season, his longest streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures was four.

FINDING THE MARK FROM BEYOND THE ARC -- USC has made 30 of 67 shots from three-point range (44.8 percent) in the last five games. In the first four games, USC hit just 12 of 53 (22.6 percent).

ENJOYING THE HOME COOKING -- USC is 5-0 at the Galen Center this season and have won nine consecutive home games dating back to the 2007-08 season matching the record at its new arena. USC's won nine consecutive games at the Galen Center Nov. 18-Dec. 28, 2006 during the inaugural season.

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.

FACING THE BEST -- USC's 2008-09 schedule features a potential 22 games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2007-08, including 13 that won 20 or more games. Also, eight 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. USC's opponents have a combined 43-37 record through games of Dec. 13 (40-31 if you take out the result against USC).

BREAKING DOWN THE LOSSES -- Although USC has lost three games this season, they led most of the way against Seton Hall (8-1) and Missouri (8-1) and fell by a point at No. 4 Oklahoma (10-0). The combined record of the teams USC lost to is 26-2.

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 40 teams to under 60 points in Tim Floyd's first 109 games as USC's head coach. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 56 teams under 40 percent shooting in the first 109 games under Floyd. USC was outshot from the field in just five of 33 games last season and only once this season (Missouri). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 67 of the last 79 games.

TROJANS ALL-ACCESS PROVIDES EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE -- USC is offering 11 games this season exclusively on Trojans All-Access, as the only video coverage. Fans can sign up at USCTrojans.com and watch selected games on their computers. Remaining games to be shown exclusively on Trojans All-Access are: Dec. 20 vs. North Dakota St., Dec. 28 vs. Oral Roberts, Jan. 2 at Oregon (delayed), Jan. 15 vs. Arizona St. (delayed).

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