USC Faces No. 23 Arizona State For Pac-10 Tournament Championship
March 14, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC Trojans (20-12, 9-9/T5th) will face the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils (24-8, 11-7/T-3rd) in the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on March 14 at 3 p.m. USC is the No. 6 seed and Arizona State the No. 4 seed. The lowest seed ever to win the Pac-10 Tournament was the No. 5 seed Oregon Ducks in 2003. USC has won 20 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time in school history.
BREAKING DOWN THE SUN DEVILS -- The Sun Devils defeated Pac-10 regular-season champion Washington 75-65 last night in the Pac-10 Semifinals. ASU is led in scoring by Pac-10 Player of the Year sophomore James Harden (21.1 ppg) and senior Jeff Pendergraph (14.4 ppg). USC defeated ASU 61-49 at the Galen Center on Jan. 15, then lost 65-53 at Tempe, Ariz. on Feb. 15. USC leads the all-time series with ASU, 47-32.
TROJANS HOLD OFF BRUINS -- USC saw its 15-point second-half lead with 2:44 to go cut to five, but regrouped and defeated UCLA 65-55 in Pac-10 Semifinals action at Staples Center on March 13. For the second consecutive game, DeMar DeRozan (21 points/13 rebounds) and Taj Gibson (13 points/11 rebounds) posted double-doubles. USC outshot UCLA 51.1 percent to 27.1 percent, but committed 24 turnovers and made just 53.3 percent of its free throws (16 of 30) to keep the game close.
USC AT THE PAC-10 TOURNAMENT -- USC is 11-10 all-time at the Pac-10 Tournament, including a 2-0 mark vs. ASU. USC defeated ASU 59-55 in the Pac-10 Quarterfinals last season here at Staples Center and 94-82 in the 1989 Pac-10 Tournament played at The Forum in Los Angeles, Calif. USC is 0-3 all-time in Pac-10 Tournament Finals, losing to Oregon in 2003 and 2007 and falling to Arizona in 2002.
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.
DWIGHT IS ALRIGHT -- Junior guard Dwight Lewis enters today's game with 995 career points, needing five more to become the 34th player in USC history to score 1,000 or more points. Taj Gibson became the 33rd earlier this season.
MAGICAL MARKS -- USC is 11-0 when holding teams to under 60 points, 9-2 when committing less turnovers, 16-4 when having a better FT% and 18-5 when taking more FTs.
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 32 games, including 15 double-doubles giving him 31 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 29 of 32 games and has 8 rebounds or more in 22 of 32 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 1,273 points, 16th all time in scoring by a Trojan. David Bluthenthal (1999-2002) is 15th with 1,313 career points. Gibson also has 885 career rebounds, second all-time by a Trojan.
DEMAR IS D'MAN -- Freshman DeMar DeRozan has averaged 14.6 points (336) and 6.3 rebounds (145) in his last 23 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 424 points, 5th in scoring average (13.3), 4th in FT attempts (129), 5th in FT made (86), 4th in rebounds (184), T-8th in FG% (.520) and 8th in rebound average (5.8).
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 351 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 43 steals this season and 103 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 49 three-pointers this season and 100 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 24 of 30 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 4-0 to push its record to 11-3 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 20 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 12.8 in the last 20 games (256 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 52 teams to 60 points or less in Tim Floyd's first 132 games as USC's head coach, including 13 this season. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 68 teams under 40 percent shooting in the first 132 games under Floyd, 16 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 84 of the last 102 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 25 of 32 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.