USC Opens Pac-10 Play By Hosting Arizona
Dec. 29, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC Trojans (8-4) will face the Arizona Wildcats (6-6) at the Galen Center on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. to open up Pac-10 Conference play. The game will be broadcast live on Prime Ticket with Paul Sunderland and Brandon Granville calling the action. It will also be offered on a delayed basis on USCTrojans.com. The game will air live on USC radio flagship station ESPN Radio 710 AM with Rory Markas and Jim Hefner calling the action. USC's six consecutive wins match last season's longest winning streak and are the most since winning nine straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 23, 2005.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS -- The Wildcats went 6-6 in the non-conference action after falling 99-69 vs. BYU on Dec. 28, and own wins over Colorado and North Carolina State. Arizona is led by senior guard Nic Wise who has averaged 16.3 points and 4.0 assists per game and hit two game-winning shots last week. The Wildcats, like the Trojans, have a new head coach in Sean Miller. USC and Arizona split the 2009 season series with each team winning on its own home court. Arizona leads the all-time series 55-38, but USC has won five of the last seven meetings between the two schools.
USC BEATS UNLV TO CLAIM DIAMOND HEAD CLASSIC TITLE -- USC trailed for only 41 seconds early in the game and cruised to a 67-56 victory over No. 27/No. 20 UNLV to capture the first Diamond Head Classic Championship held in Honolulu, Hi. on Dec. 25. It was USC's first game on Christmas since 1946. UNLV had the fifth-best turnover margin in the country and averaged turning over its opponents 18.3 times per game, but USC had a season-low eight turnovers while forcing 15 UNLV miscues in the 11-point victory. Marcus Johnson led USC with 19 points, his most as a Trojan, and a career-high nine rebounds. Johnson and Mike Gerrity were named to the All-Tournament team, with Gerrity being named MVP. Gerrity scored 13 points in this game, following two 17-point efforts.
SUN DEVILS ON DECK -- Arizona State is 10-3 with a game at UCLA on Dec. 31 before facing the Trojans. It has been a complete team effort by ASU as no one player ranks among the top 15 in the Pac-10 in scoring and only one player in the top 20 in rebounds. They have, however, shot the lights out, shooting at a 48.4 clip while holding opponents to 38.0 percent. ASU also stretches defenses with their outside shooting, having connected on a conference-leading 112 three-pointers in 13 games, as compared to the Trojans' 37 in their first 12 games. USC took two out of three games from ASU last season, including winning 66-63 in the Pac-10 Tournament title game. USC leads the all-time series with ASU, 48-32, and has won nine of the last 13 games against the Sun Devils.
TROJANS PLAY THE ROLL OF SCROOGE ON DEFENSE -- USC enters the game having allowed 676 points in its first 12 games (56.3 ppg), its fewest through 12 games since allowing 672 points in the first 12 games of the 1954-55 season. USC has held its last six opponents to 56 points or less and eight times in 12 games this season.
GERRITY NAMED PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK -- Mike Gerrity was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for Dec. 21-27 as he helped lead USC to the Diamond Head Classic title by averaging 15.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while making 62.1 percent of his shots. He is the second straight Trojan to be honored as Alex Stepheson won for the week of Dec. 14-20.
THE TROJANS' OWN SAINT NIK -- Sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic already has five double-doubles in his first 12 games this season, tied for the Pac-10 lead and more than DeMar DeRozan had last year in his phenomenal freshman season. Vucevic had 15 points and 10 rebounds vs. Tennessee on Dec. 19 for his fifth double-double. He had 14 points and posted a career-high 15 rebounds on Dec. 8 vs. Sac. State, a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. LMU on Nov. 21, 15 points and 12 rebounds vs. Coppin St. on Nov. 27 and 18 points and 14 rebounds at Texas on Dec. 3. Through 12 games he is averaging 13.0 points and 9.8 rebounds, after averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman last season. His 9.8 rebounds per game leads all Pac-10 players.
JOHNSON'S SECOND SENIOR SEASON -- USC redshirt senior G/F Marcus Johnson, who played the second semester last season after transferring to USC from UConn, was granted another year of eligibilty by the NCAA following the season, but penalized two games for playing in an exhibition game in the 2007-08 season. USC is 20-7 in games he has been available to play in the two seasons. In his first game this season on Nov. 27 vs. CSU, Johnson had 11 points, three rebounds and a steal. Johnson scored his USC high of 19 points and had a career-high nine rebounds vs. UNLV on Dec. 25. Johnson leads USC with 19 steals and is third in rebounds with 60 and blocks with nine.
DEVELOPING A HOME COURT ADVANTAGE AT GALEN -- USC has a 45-12 record all-time at the Galen Center, including winning 24 of the last 28 home games.
FACING THE BEST -- USC's 2009-10 schedule features 12 games against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last season and another 10 games against teams which were in either the NIT or CBI tournaments, meaning 22 of 30 games against teams that played in the 2009 postseason and 23 of 30 against teams that posted a .500 or better record. USC's opponents have a combined 94-51 record this season (64.8 winning percentage) through games of Dec. 28.
PAC-10 PREDICTIONS -- USC was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 Conference in a vote by the league media. California was picked first, Washington second, UCLA third, Arizona fourth, Oregon State fifth, Oregon sixth, Arizona State seventh, Washington State eighth and Stanford 10th.
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT -- Alex Stepheson showed signs he is shaking off the rust of more than a year away from game action, as he scored a career-high 22 points at Georgia Tech on Dec. 5 and then had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks vs. Sacramento State on Dec. 8 for his second career double-double. Stepheson then had his third career double-double vs. Idaho State on Dec. 11 with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. In the game vs. Tennessee on Dec. 19, Stepheson had 19 points and a new career high with 15 rebounds to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 14-20. He played in his first game as a Trojan on Nov. 27 vs. Coppin State and registered his first career double-double on Nov. 29 vs. Nebraska with 13 points and a then career-best 12 rebounds. In his first 10 games, he has averaged 10.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
I LIKE MIKE -- What is not to like for Trojan fans as the senior has played four games, leading USC to a 77-55 upset of No. 9 Tennessee on Dec. 19 and then to the championship of the Diamond Head Classic while earning Tournament MVP honors. Gerrity scored 15 of his team-high 17 points after halftime to help USC to a 55-51 comeback victory over Western Michigan on Dec. 22. He followed that up with a team-high 17 points including hitting a key three-pointer late in the game in the semifinals win vs. Saint Mary's on Dec. 23. In the finals vs. UNLV on Dec. 25, he had 13 points and three assists without a turnover against UNLV's tough press. Gerrity has averaged 14.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds in his first four games. His 10 assists vs. Tennessee were the most by a Trojan since Daniel Hackett had 13 on Dec. 4, 2008 at Oklahoma. He has 17 assists and 10 turnovers, the only Trojan with a positive assist to turnover ratio.
WASHINGTON RETURNS -- Sophomore forward Leonard Washington played in his first game of the season on Dec. 23 after missing the first semester with academic issues and had an immediate impact. He scored 10 points, had six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and an assist. He then scored nine points and had four rebounds and a block vs. UNLV on Dec. 25. Washington was fifth in scoring for USC as a freshman with a 6.1 average in 30 games, 13 starts. He scored in double figures six times last season with a high of 17 vs. North Dakota State on Dec. 20, 2008.
LOUISIANA LIGHTNING -- Senior Dwight Lewis from Metarie, La. has scored 1,196 career points, 21st all-time at USC and eight points behind Maurice Williams (1979-82) who is in 20th place with 1,204. Lewis entered the season fifth among returning Pac-10 players in career points. He also ranks 14th on USC's all-time three-point baskets list with 117 which ranks eighth among returning conference players and two behind Adam Spanich (1998-99) who ranks 13th on USC's all-time list. Lewis led USC with a 14.4 scoring average in 2008-09, as well in three-point baskets (55) and free throw shooting (74.8 percent). He reached double figures in scoring in 27 of his 33 games last season, scoring a career-high 26 twice (vs. San Francisco on Dec. 1 and at Oregon on Jan. 2). He scored 22 points vs. UCR on Nov. 17 and 21 vs. Tennesse on Dec. 19 and has had 11 career 20-point games.
WHAT TURNOVER PROBLEM -- USC has 189 turnovers through 12 games (15.8 per game), 13 less than it had through 12 games last season (202). That team averaged 16.8 turnovers in the first 12 games, then averaged 12.4 over the final 23 contests en route to a 22-13 season. USC is coming off a season low in turnovers of eight vs. UNLV on Dec. 25.
DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 61 teams to 60 points or less in the last five seasons (147 games), including eight this season. The Trojans held 17 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 75 teams under 40 percent shooting in the last 147 games. USC was outshot from the field just nine times last season and four times so far this season (Nebraska, Texas, GT & WMU). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 93 of the last 117 games. USC held Sac. State to 23.0 percent shooting on Dec. 8, the lowest percentage by a Trojan opponent since Loyola Marymount shot 22.4 percent from the field on Dec. 9, 1998. The last six Trojan opponents have combined to make 31.6 percent (103-for-326) from the field.
WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC is 7-4-1 in the rebound battle this season and has outrebounded seven of its last 10 opponents (Coppin State, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia Tech, Sac. State, Idaho State & Tennessee) for a total rebound advantage of 387-304.