USC Takes On UCLA In Pac-10 Tournament Semifinals

March 12, 2009

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC Trojans (19-12, 9-9/T5th) will face the No. 15 UCLA Bruins (25-7, 13-5/2nd) in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on March 13 at 8:30 p.m. USC is the No. 6 seed and UCLA the No. 2 seed. The winner will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Washington/No. 4 seed Arizona State game in the championship on Saturday, March 14 at 3 p.m. USC is attempting to win 20 games in three straight seasons for the first time in school history.

BREAKING DOWN THE BRUINS -- The Bruins defeated Washington State 64-53 last night in the Pac-10 Quarterfinals. UCLA is led in scoring by seniors Darren Collison (14.8 ppg) and Josh Shipp (14.2 ppg). UCLA defeated USC 64-60 at the Galen Center on Jan. 11, then handed USC its worst loss of the season, a 76-60 setback at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 4. UCLA leads the all-time series with USC, 128-100.

TROJANS HOLD OFF BEARS -- USC raced to a 42-27 halftime lead and then held off a furious California comeback for a 79-75 victory on March 13 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. Taj Gibson (21 points/16 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (17 points/11 rebounds) led the Trojans with double doubles. Daniel Hackett added 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the victory. USC outrebounded the Bears 53-27, but was outshot from the floor, 43.1 percent to 42.6 percent.

USC AT THE PAC-10 TOURNAMENT -- USC is 10-10 all-time at the Pac-10 Tournament, including an 0-1 mark vs. UCLA. USC has reached at least the seminfinals the last three seasons, falling to Oregon in the 2007 finals and to UCLA in the 2008 semifinals. The Trojans and Bruins had never met before in the Pac-10 Tournament until UCLA's 57-54 victory last season. USC has reached the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament three times in its 11 years, falling to Arizona once (2002) and Oregon twice (2003, 2007).

BATTLE TESTED -- Through regular season games, USC's opponents had a combined 532-372 record (.588), eight of USC's opponents were a combined 84-152 (.356), while the other 22 were 448-220 (.671). Twenty-one of USC's 30 games were vs. teams that were .500 or better and 21 of those were against teams that have won 16 or more. USC's schedule is ranked the 14th toughest by Sagarin. Before the final weekend, USC played 14 consecutive games against teams two games over .500 or better.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS -- USC has played 12 games decided by 5 points or less (6-6). The Trojans have been within 5 points at some point with under 4 minutes to play in all but two of its 12 losses this season. In 6 of the Trojans' 12 losses, they were within 3 points with under a minute to play. Six of the Trojans last eight losses have come to teams that have won 22 or more games and eight of the 12 teams to beat USC have won 22 or more.

TROJANS TAKE THE FREE WAY TO VICTORY -- USC made 16 of 20 free throws (80.0 percent) in the victory vs. Cal on March 13. USC improved to 16-4 when it has a better free throw percentage than the opposition and to 17-5 in games when taking more free throws than its opponent. In the two losses in the Bay Area on Feb. 26 and 28, the Trojans hit just 25 of 49 free throws (51.0 percent) but has hit 76.8 percent since (53-for-69).

TAJ HAS BEEN A TOWER OF POWER -- Taj Gibson was diagnosed on Jan. 26 with an pneumonia, practiced Jan. 28 and scored 20 points in 38 minutes on Jan. 29 vs. Stanford, then dropped in 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds vs. California on Jan. 31. He has averaged 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in USC's first 31 games, including 14 double-doubles giving him 30 in his career. Gibson made a run at becoming the first Trojan to average a double-double since Jaha Wilson in 1994-95 (14.2 pts/10.1 reb.). The 25 points on Dec. 15 vs. Pepperdine was a career high and the 18 rebounds on Nov. 20 vs. SHU and Dec. 20 vs. NDSU tied a career high. Gibson has scored in double figures in 28 of 31 games and has 8 rebounds or more in 21 of 31 games. Gibson was named to the Midseason Top 30 for the Wooden Award. Gibson also has been rising up the USC career scoring charts and currently has 1,260 points, 16th all time in scoring by a Trojan. David Bluthenthal (1999-2002) is 15th with 1,313 career points. Gibson also has 874 career rebounds, second all-time by a Trojan.

DEMAR IS D'MAN -- Freshman DeMar DeRozan has averaged 14.3 points (315) and 6.0 rebounds (132) in his last 22 games. He reached double figures in scoring 13-straight games before being held to 5 on Jan. 24 at WSU. He scored a career-high 22 points in the win vs. ASU on Jan. 15. On Jan. 2 at Oregon, he had his first career double-double (14 pts/12 reb), added his second at ASU on Feb. 15 (16 pts/10 reb) and third March 12 vs. Cal (17 pts/11 reb). DeRozan currently ranks 6th all-time in scoring by a USC freshman with 403 points, 5th in scoring average (13.0), 5th in FT attempts (121), 6th in FT made (80), 6th in rebounds (171), 9th in FG% (.518) and T-8th in rebound average (5.5).

HE CAN SURE HACKETT -- Junior point guard Daniel Hackett entered Pac-10 Tourney play 4th in the Pac-10 with 4.8 assists per game and is 4th in total assists with 143. He currently has 347 in his career, 6th all-time by a Trojan. Gus Williams (1973-75) is 5th on USC's all-time assist list with 362. 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). He also has 41 steals this season and 101 in his career. Hackett scored 26 points at Cal on Feb. 26 to tie his career high in points.

THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Dwight Lewis miss two games (Jan. 22 and 24) with a sprained left ankle, but bounced quickly with 20 points at UCLA on Feb. 4 and 21 at Arizona on Feb. 12. At Arizona, Lewis hit a career-high 6 three-pointers, including his first 5 attempts in the 2nd half. He then led USC in scoring with 17 vs. WSU on Feb. 19. He has made a team-leading 47 three-pointers this season and 98 in his career for 16th place on USC's all-time three-point baskets made list. Rodney Chatman is 15th with 105 career 3-point baskets. 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, at the time his two best career scoring outputs. He matched his career high with 26 points at Oregon on Jan. 2, including making 4 three-pointers. Lewis scored in double figures in a career-high 9 straight games to start this season and in 23 of 29 games overall. He was held scoreless vs. Oregon State in the regular season finale, his first game without scoring since his freshman season.

ANOTHER MAGIC JOHNSON? -- No, there is only one Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, but Marcus Johnson has had quite a magical impact on USC. After sitting out the first semester due to NCAA transfer rules, the Trojans went 7-3 with him in the lineup before he suffered a right rotator cuff injury. While out of the lineup, USC went 1-6. He returned on March 5 and USC has gone 3-0 to push its record to 10-3 in games Johnson is available.

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF -- USC committed just eight turnovers at California on Feb. 26. It was the eighth time in the last 19 games in single-digits in turnovers, after registering 10 or more turnovers in each of the first 12 games. In the first 12 games USC averaged 16.8 turnovers and has averaged 12.2 in the last 19 games (232 turnovers). USC is 9-2 this season when committing less TOs than its opponent.

BREAKING DOWN THE LOSSES -- Although USC has lost 12 games this season, they have fallen to some quality teams and 8 of the 12 games were decided by 9 points or less. USC has lost to Seton Hall (16-14), No. 15 Missouri (25-6), Oregon St. (13-16), No. 4 Oklahoma (27-4), No. 20 UCLA twice (24-7), No. 16 Washington twice (24-7), No. 38 Arizona (19-12), No. 21 Arizona State (22-8), No. 34 California (22-9) and Stanford (17-12). Through games of March 7, the combined record of the teams USC has lost to is 257-109 (.702).

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 51 teams to 60 points or less in Tim Floyd's first 131 games as USC's head coach, including 12 this season. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 67 teams under 40 percent shooting in the first 131 games under Floyd, 15 times this season. USC was outshot from the field just seven times this season (Mizz, OSU, ASU, Uof A-2, UW & Cal). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 83 of the last 101 games.

WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC outrebounded the opposition in its first 11 games before being beaten on the glass 34-32 by ORU on Dec. 29, but has had a rebounding edge in 24 of 31 games this season. USC has enjoyed a 4.9 rebound edge per game in the regular season, good for 36th in the country. USC was outrebounded 40-30 by UW on Feb. 21, its largest rebound deficit in a game this the season.

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