USC Looks To Snap Losing Skid Against WSU

Jan. 7, 2005

Los Angeles -

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The USC men's basketball team--now 7-7 overall and 0-3 in Pac-10 play--looks for its first win in conference as it hosts Washington State (6-6, 1-2) at the Sports Arena on Saturday (Jan. 8) at 5 p.m. The Trojans are 0-3 in the Pac-10 after getting swept by the Oregon schools last weekend and falling to Washington on Thursday. Saturday's game will be televised on Fox Sports Net 2. Since Trojan head coach Henry Bibby was dismissed on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 5-5 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia. Troy is led by the underclass backcourt combination of Lodrick Stewart (14.8 ppg) and Gabe Pruitt (10.6 ppg).

SCOUTING WSU -- The Cougars are 6-6 after losing 80-77 to UCLA on Thursday in double overtime. WSU plays a grind-it-out style that slows the game and keeps the score down, as evidenced by their 52.2 points per game scoring average (they allow just 54.7 points to opponents). Senior guard Thomas Kelati leads WSU, at 12.4 ppg--the only Cougar who averages double figures. WSU is coming off a 13 win season, which was a six-win improvement over the previous year.

LAST MEETING -- USC struggled against the top defensive team in the Pac-10, falling to Washington State, 60-51, late last season. The Trojans' 51 points was a season low, as were their field goals made (18), attempted (48) and field goal percentage (37.5%, at the time). USC was down only 50-46 with 4:50 left when the Cougars went on a 7-0 run over the next three minutes, handcuffing the Trojan offense and sealing the win.

PLENTY OF BASKETBALL TO BE PLAYED -- Though USC is 0-3 in conference, it has been in worse situations before and come back to have a good season. In fact, in 1990-91, the Trojans started out 0-4 in the Pac-10 and went on to make the NCAA tournament.

NEXT UP -- The Trojans hit the road again next week to take on Arizona (Jan. 13) and Arizona State (Jan. 15).

LAST GAME -- The Trojans dropped to 0-3 in the Pac-10 (and 7-7 overall) as No. 12 Washington disposed of USC, 84-59. It was Troy's lowest point total of the season. USC attempted a season-low 54 field goals (making just 21 of them) and a season-high 32 free throws (sinking just 13). Freshman Nick Young led the Trojans with 20 points and 7 rebounds. Tre Simmons led the Huskies with a game-high 22 points.

STU! -- In the first three games of the season (two of them Trojan losses), sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart averaged 6.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals per game and was shooting just 35% from the field. In the last 11 games (six of them Trojan wins), the left-handed Stewart is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting .500 from the field. He also has scored 20 points or more five times in that stretch. In the last nine games--five of them USC wins--he is shooting a stellar 57-of-109 from the field (.522). In his career, he has seven games of 20 points or more. All have come in the last 19 games he has played for USC. He is USC's leading scorer this year (14.8), eighth in the Pac-10.

Lodrick Stewart IN THE LAST 11 GAMES

OPP	FG/FGA	FG%	3FG	3FG%	PtsBYU	7-16	.438	2-6	.333	22FSU	4-11	.364	1-3	.333	12USD	11-19	.579	5-11	.455	27WMU	8-14	.571	4-9	.444	21ISU	3-9	.333	2-4	.500	11UAB	6-10	.600	2-6	.333	14Hawaii	4-9	.444	2-7	.286	12Southern7-12	.583	5-9	.556	20Oregon	9-16	.563	5-12	.417	25OSU	5-12	.417	4-9	.444	14UW	4-8	.500	1-4	.250	10TOT--	68-136	.500	33-80	.412	17.2

PRU! -- Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young point guards in the country. The Los Angeles native didn't waste much time in game one--a check of the records indicates that when 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 had led the Trojans in scoring in a season opener. But Pruitt--who has a style reminiscent of NBA star Jalen Rose--wasn't just a one-game wonder. He currently leads the Pac-10 in steals (2.2 per game) and is eighth in assists (3.9 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (10.6 avg.). He has shot .500 or better from the field in nine of USC's 14 games.

YOUNG GUN -- USC's recruiting class was ranked as high as seventh by one expert. The two jewels of the class--and the prime building blocks of USC teams to come--are Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young. While Pruitt's exploits were noted earlier, it is Young who has come on the most of late. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young is averaging 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. He scored a career-high 21 points against Oregon in his Pac-10 debut on 9-of-17 shooting, while also grabbing 7 rebounds. Against Washington, he had 20 points and 7 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 11,054 minutes, scored 3,904 points, snagged 2,186 rebounds and dished out 687 assists in their careers.

HOME COOKING -- While the Trojans are struggling on the road this year (0-5), they are 4-2 at the Sports Arena.

BALANCING ACTS -- The Trojans had six players score in double figures in the season opening win at home against UCI and did it again against Southern in their last home game. USC is 4-0 this year in games where at least five players score in double figures.

OUTGOING -- Two Trojans--sophomore guard Rodrick Stewart and freshman forward Emanuel Willis--have left the program. Stewart, twin brother of Lodrick, is transferring to Kansas, while Willis is returning home to Mississippi (his ultimate playing destination is unknown at this point).

STEAL THIS NOTE -- USC led the Pac-10 in steals last year with an average of 8.89 steals per game. They are leading it again this year with an average of 9.3 per game. That average puts USC on pace to break the school record of 287 steals set in 2001-2002.

Errick Craven OUT -- The Trojans are leading in steals despite being without senior guard Errick Craven. The 3-time reigning Pac-10 steals champ is out with a sprain to his right ankle. It is undetermined at this time when he will be available.

3-POINT KINGS -- The Trojans also lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (7.64).USC is 6-0 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers.

ASSISTS BONANZA -- USC has been passing the ball well lately, thanks to the 1-4 Ralph Miller offense that Jim Saia installed at USC this season. It's an offense that relies on passing and results in a lot of easy baskets and assists when run properly. The last two seasons, USC has averaged just 13.6 assists per game. So far this season, it is averaging 15.8 assists per game. At its current pace, USC can challenge the school record for assists in a season (518 in 2000).

PAST GLORY -- Fifty years ago this calendar year, the Trojans went to their last NCAA Final Four. The 1953-54 USC basketball team was coached by Forrest Twogood and was captained by forward Dick Welsh. The Trojans fell to Bradley, 74-72, in their semifinal game. Bradley went on to lose to La Salle (which beat USC earlier this season, coincidentally) in the NCAA title game.

NEW ARENA COMING -- Thanks to the generosity of Louis and Helene Galen, USC's athletic department has begun construction on The Galen Center--a new $114 million, 10,258-seat campus events center that will be home to USC men's basketball. Complete with locker rooms, offices and practice facilities for both basketball and volleyball, The Galen Center is scheduled to be completed in 2006.

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