Men's Basketball Hits Tobacco Road To Play North Carolina

Nov. 24, 2004

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LOS ANGELES -- The USC men's basketball team (1-0) looks to build on a solid performance in its home opener as it hits historic Tobacco Road for a game at No. 4 North Carolina (1-1) on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET, before heading to the City of Brotherly Love to take on LaSalle (0-1) on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. ET. Two years removed from back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-win seasons but coming off of a 13-15 season in 2004, ninth-year coach Henry Bibby's Trojans return seven lettermen, including four starters, and welcome a top-10 recruiting class made up of three talented freshmen, plus a junior-college transfer.

GAME #2 -- USC (1-0) at No. 4 North Carolina (1-1) at the Dean Smith Center on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. (ET). It will be telecast live nationally by Fox Sports Net and broadcast live on KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KSPA 1510 in Ontario/Orange County and XEMM 800 in San Diego. Coach Roy Williams, the winningest active coach in the country, is in his second year at North Carolina and coming off a 19-11 first season in which he guided the Tar Heels to the second round of the NCAA tournament. UNC returns five starters, including junior G/F Rashad McCants (ACC-best 20 ppg. in 2004), junior PG Raymond Felton (ACC-best 7.1 apg. in 2004) and C/F Sean May (ACC-best 9.8 rpg. in 2004). The Tar Heels dropped their opener to Santa Clara, 77-66, at the Pete Newell Challenge (without Felton, who was ineligible for one game), but came back to beat BYU in the Maui Invitational, 86-50. They'll play as many as two more games in Maui before returning home to face the Trojans. USC is 0-6 lifetime against the Tar Heels (all games played at Chapel Hill), with the most recent loss coming in 1999 (82-65). The Trojans haven't fared any better against Williams, who went 2-0 against USC while coaching Kansas. USC coach Henry Bibby grew up about 30 miles from Chapel Hill in Franklinton, NC.

GAME #3 -- USC at LaSalle (0-1) at the Tom Gola Arena on Tuesday (Nov. 30) at 7 p.m. (ET). It will be broadcast live on KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KSPA 1510 in Ontario/Orange County and XEMM 800 in San Diego. Dr. John Giannini is in his first season as head coach of the Explorers. His senior-less squad is led by junior F Steven Smith (17 pts, 8 rpg. in 2004) and junior PG Jermaine Thomas (7 ppg. in 2004). The Explorers dropped their season opener to James Madison, 59-50, and will travel to Hofstra before taking on the Trojans. USC is 1-3 against LaSalle lifetime, the only win coming last season in Philadelphia, 89-63.

LAST TIME OUT -- The Trojans tipped off their season with a 90-70 win at home against UC Irvine on Monday, Nov. 22. Freshman guard Gabe Pruitt and senior guard Errick Craven each scored 13 points to lead six Trojans in double figures. Senior forward Jeff McMillan added 12 rebounds to go with his 12 points, while junior guard Dwayne Shackleford added 12 points, including three 3-point FGs. The Trojans trailed by one point at the intermission but took control in the second half, outscoring the Anteaters, 54-33. Troy was a blistering 13 of 24 from 3-point land (.542%), its best long-range shooting since hitting 10 of 16 threes (.625) against Washington St. in 2002.

EXHIBITION RECAPS -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart scored a game-high 22 points and chipped in 5 steals to lead the Trojan basketball team to a 90-52 drubbing of Occidental in USC's exhibition opener on Nov. 5 at the Lyon Center. Three other Trojans scored in double figures, including senior center Rory O'Neil (15 points), senior guard Errick Craven (14 points) and freshman guard Gabriel Pruitt (10 points) as USC built a 52-19 halftime lead and never looked back. USC shot 57.1% from the floor to Oxy's 27.1%. The Trojans made 19-of-26 free throws (73.1%).

In game two of the exhibition season, senior forward Jeff McMillan scored a team-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead six Trojans in double figures as USC notched a 94-56 win over NAIA The Masters College on Nov. 12 at the Lyon Center. USC's balanced attack also yielded 14 points from guard Errick Craven, 13 points center Rory O'Neil, 12 points apiece from forwards Nick Curtis and Emanuel Willis and 10 points from forward Nick Young, who added a game-high 10 rebounds.

SENIORITIS -- The Trojans are blessed with six seniors--guards Errick and Derrick Craven, and forwards Rory O'Neil, Jeff McMillan, Nick Curtis and Greg Guenther--the most of any team in the Pac-10. Between the six of them, they have played 9,724 minutes, scored 3,432 points, snagged 1,906 rebounds and dished out 588 assists in their careers.

GROOVY NEWBIES -- It didn't take long for USC's recruiting class--ranked as high as seventh nationally by one publication--to make an impact in 2004-2005. In Troy's first game against UC Irvine, the four Trojan newcomers (guards Gabe Pruitt and Dwayne Shackleford and forwards Nick Young and Emanuel Willis) combined for 29 points, 5 assists and 6 steals in 52 total minutes played. Pruitt and Shackleford alone accounted for 25 of those points on 10 of 14 shooting (71%).

GABE MAKES HIS MARK -- A check of the records indicates that when Gabe Pruitt co-led the Trojans in scoring against UC Irvine with 13 points, it was the first time since the advent of freshmen eligibility that a freshman has led the Trojans in scoring in a season opener.

BALANCING ACT -- The Trojans had six players score in double figures in the season opening win against UCI. That's the first time that happened since six Trojans hit double figures against Oregon in 2002 in Pac-10 tournament play. What's more, USC was just a hair away from seven players in double figures, as Rory O'Neil finished with nine points.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE TO GO -- Forward Jeff McMillan is putting together a fine portfolio of double-doubles. After scoring 12 points and getting 12 rebounds against UCI, he now has 11 double-doubles in his career.

THE RETURNERS -- Senior guard Errick Craven is USC's co-leading returning scorer after posting a scoring clip of 11.1 points ... He led USC in assists (3.0) and steals (2.6) for the second-consecutive season ... He started 21 times and became the first player since Gary Payton to lead the Pac-10 in steals three consecutive sasons ... Senior forward Jeff McMillan was the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year last year and is the co-leading returning scorer at 11.1 ppg. ... He also led the team in rebounds (8.6) ... He was the only Trojan to start all 28 games ... Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart started just four games last year, but was fourth on the squad in scoring at 8.7 ppg. ... He also was second with 43 steals ... Senior center Rory O'Neil averaged 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds while starting 19 games ... He had a team-best 43 blocks (fourth in the Pac-10) and led the team in 3-point field goal percentage--the only player in the Pac-10 to lead his team in both those categories ... Senior guard Derrick Craven, identical twin of Errick, started 11 games, averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 assists ... Senior forward Gregg Guenther Jr., became a boon to Bibby last year in his second season switching from football to basketball ... He's full-time with basketball now ... Averaged 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds last season in five starts ... Senior forward Nick Curtis was slowed by injuries but still started three games and averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds.

THE NEW FACES - Guard Dwayne Shackleford, a 5-10 junior college transfer, joins USC as a junior, while 6-4 guard Gabe Pruitt, 6-6 guard/forward Nick Young and 6-8 forward Emanuel Willis join the Trojans as freshmen in 2005. Shackleford was a NJCAA All-American while averaging 21.4 ppg. for Allegany College in Cumberland, Md.; Pruitt was a Parade All-American fourth-team selection while averaging 22 points and 6 assists for Westchester (Calif.) High; Young was an L.A. All-City selection while averaging 27.2 points and 10.8 rebounds for Cleveland High in Reseda, Calif.; and Willis attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. last season, but averaged 21 points and 14 rebounds as a 2003 senior for Mendenhall (Miss.) High. This highly-regarded class--which briefly included 2004 NBA first-round pick Robert Swift--landed as high as seventh in the national recruiting rankings.

USC AGAINST THE PRESEASON TOP 25 - USC is scheduled to play four schools that opened in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Top 25. The four ranked schools looming on the schedule are No. 3 North Carolina, No. 11 Arizona, No. 24 Washington and No. 25 Stanford.

USC PICKED TO FINISH SIXTH IN MEDIA POLL -- USC was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 media poll on Nov. 4. Arizona was picked first with 19 first-place votes and 253 points. Washington (seven first-place votes and 237 points) was second and Stanford was third (194 points). Oregon was fourth (167), followed by UCLA (156), USC (116), California (87), Oregon State (86), Washington State (73) and Arizona State (64).

OPENING REMARKS -- USC is 69-30 all-time in its season openers and have won 13 of its last 17 such games. Under ninth-year Coach Henry Bibby, USC has gone 7-2 with wins over Long Beach State (1997), San Diego State (1999), Cal State Northrdige (2000), Bradley (2001), Wyoming (2002), UC Riverside (2003) and UC Irvine (2005). The Trojans have also won their last nine home openers.

THE TROJANS VS. RANKED TEAMS RECENTLY -- USC was 1-4 against ranked teams in 2003-2004, falling to No. 16 Arizona in the Pac-10 tourney, at No. 15 Arizona on the road, at No. 1 Stanford at home and No. 2 Stanford on the road. USC's lone win was against No. 7 Arizona at home. In 2002-2003, USC was 3-6 against ranked teams in 2002-03, falling to No. 15 Missouri at the Wooden Classic, to No. 2 Arizona at home, at No. 25 California, at No. 1 Arizona, vs. No. 21 Stanford and vs. No. 18 California, but beating No. 19 Oregon at home and No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 California in the Pac-10 Tournament. The Trojans are 13-20 against ranked teams in the past four years combined and 15-25 in the last five years. USC was 6-4 against ranked teams in 2002, defeating No. 11 UCLA on Jan. 10, losing at No. 15 Arizona on Jan. 17, defeating No. 14 Stanford on Jan. 26, losing at No. 15 UCLA, defeating No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 16, beating No. 10 Stanford on Feb. 21, losing to No. 13 Oregon on Feb. 28, beating No. 16 Stanford on March 7, downing No. 9 Oregon on March 8 and falling to No. 14 Arizona on March 9.

USC COACH Henry Bibby -- Henry Bibby, a coach with 22 years of college and professional experience and the only person to ever play for an NCAA, NBA and CBA championship team, is in his ninth full season in 2004-2005 as the head coach of the USC men's basketball program. He is just two years removed from guiding the Trojans to only their second back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2001 and 2002 and only their third back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.• USC finished 13-15 in 2004, 8-10 in the Pac-10 (sixth place). Highlighting the year was USC's second consecutive sweep of crosstown rival UCLA, a first in more than 60 years, as well as its fifth home win over Arizona in the last eight years. The Trojans showed signs of brilliance during the season, playing top-ranked Stanford down to the wire twice before falling and coming within a possession of beating Arizona for a second time in a memorable Pac-10 Tournament first-round game that ended the Trojans' string of Pac-10 Tournament final appearances at two.• Bibby and the Trojans underwent a rebuilding season in 2003 as USC finished 13-17 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-10 (tied for sixth). Two big bright spots, however, created major optimism for 2004. First of all, USC, despite fielding a team made up predominantly of underclassmen, held second-half leads in almost every game (though it had trouble closing them out). Secondly, the Trojans made their second consecutive run to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game, showing a maturation Bibby hopes carries over to 2004.• In 2002, he led USC to a 22-10 record that included a 12-6 finish in the Pac-10 (tied for second), a finals appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 20 wins gave USC back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1939-40. USC enjoyed its fifth winning season and fourth postseason berth (three NCAA, one NIT) under his watch. Bibby was named 2002 NABC District 15 Co-Coach of the Year.• In 2001, Bibby led USC to perhaps its greatest season ever, piloting the Trojans to their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance under the tournament's current format. In their second NCAA Tournament appearance under Bibby, the No. 6-seeded Trojans reached the East Regional Final before losing to Duke. USC's three NCAA Tournament wins (against No. 11 seed Oklahoma State, No. 2 seed Boston College and No. 3 seed Kentucky) were its most ever in one tourney and the Trojans' final record of 24-10 matched the most wins ever in one season at USC. The Trojans finished 11-7 in the Pac-10 (tied for fourth place).• The Trojans' landmark team that Bibby guided featured a trio of NBA draft picks in forward/center Brian Scalabrine, guard Jeff Trepagnier and forward Sam Clancy. Scalabrine and Trepagnier were taken back-to-back in the second round of the 2001 draft; Scalabrine going to New Jersey with the 35th pick while Trepagnier went 36th to Cleveland. Clancy went in the second round of the 2002 draft to Philadelphia with the 45th pick. Clancy was the fourth Trojan taken in the NBA Draft since Bibby has been at USC (the first was Rodrick Rhodes in 1997). Elias Ayuso became the fifth Trojan under Bibby to sign with an NBA team when he inked a deal with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2003.• In his eight years as head coach, Bibby has been instrumental in player development and has guided eight players to a combined 13 All-Pac-10 honors and five players to All-Pac-10 Freshman honors. Under Bibby, Sam Clancy became a Pac-10 Player of the Year, three Trojans (Rhodes, Scalabrine and Jeff McMillan) have earned the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award and another (Ayuso) earned Pac-10 All-Newcomer first team notice. Seven of USC's top 20 scorers of all time, and nine of its 28 1,000-point scorers have played under Bibby.