Trojans Look to Continue Their Strong Start In Pac-10 Play Against Bears

Jan 24, 2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California looks to match its best start in conference play innearly 10 years as they play host to California at the Los Angeles Sports Arenaon Thursday.

The last time the 23rd-ranked Trojans (14-3, 6-1 Pac-10) started 7-1 inconference play was 1991-92. Now, buoyed by an overall team effort, this year'steam is on track to equal that mark.

Sam Clancy leads four USC players in double-digit scoring in conferencegames, averaging 20.4 points per contest. Brandon Granville (14.6 ppg), ErrickCraven (13.9 ppg) and David Bluthenthal (13.0) round out the team's offense.

Bluthenthal is the team's leader in rebounds, averaging 9.1, while Clancyaverages 8.9.

Clancy had 20 points and 12 rebounds in USC's 81-73 victory at Arizona Stateon Saturday. The Trojans had won nine straight before a 97-80 loss at Arizonatwo days earlier, but managed to keep a share of the conference lead by beatingthe Sun Devils.

'We bounced back very well,' USC coach Henry Bibby said. 'That was aconcern of mine because we hadn't had a setback like we did at Arizona, wehadn't had a game of that magnitude and lost, but it was nice to see thecomeback.'

Overall, the Trojans lead the league in offensive rebounds (15.1), aresecond in steals (9.0), turnover margin (+4.5) and overall rebounds (39.9),third in blocks (4.2) and fourth in scoring defense (66.7).

After losing six straight games to California, the Trojans swept the Bearslast season for the first time since 1991-92. That was also the last time theTrojans won in Berkeley until last year.

With its next three games against Top 25 teams, California (13-3, 4-2)begins the most difficult part of its schedule this week. After visiting USC,the Bears head to No. 13 UCLA on Saturday, before returning home to face No. 12Arizona on Jan. 31.

All three teams are ahead of the Bears in the Pac-10, and could determinethe school's postseason fate.

California is off to its best 16-game start since 1959-60 when the Bearsopened 15-1 under head coach Pete Newell en route to a 28-2 final mark and anNCAA runner-up finish.

Defense has been the team's strength this season, as the Bears have heldnine opponents to 60 points or less - including Stanford, Oregon State,Washington and Washington State.

The last time California limited nine or more teams to 60 or less was in1985-86 when 10 schools didn't break 60 points and a 45-second shot clock wasin use.

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