No. 18/21 USC Opens Season vs. UC Irvine At The Galen Center

Nov. 13, 2008

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LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans open the 2008-09 season vs. UC Irvine in the Galen Center today (Nov. 15) at 12:30 p.m.

BREAKING DOWN THE ANTEATERS -- The Anteaters return four starters from a team that went 18-16 a year ago. USC is 4-1 all-time against UC Irvine, winning the last meeting 90-70 on Nov. 22, 2004 which is also the last time USC won a season opener. UCI defeated Cal Poly 69-42 in an exhibition game on Nov. 8. UCI reached the Big West title game last season and are picked to finish sixth in the conference this season.

TROJANS IN HOME OPENERS -- USC has started at home the first three years that Tim Floyd has been the coach, but is looking for a different result. In the 2005-06 season, USC opened with CS Northridge and lost 81-76 in overtime, the 2006-07 season began with an 80-74 loss in overtime to South Carolina in the Galen Center opener and last year there was no overtime, but USC lost to Mercer 96-81. USC is 69-33 in season openers. USC had won 10 straight home openers before falling the last three seasons.

AGGIES ON DECK: USC's second game of the season is on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. vs. New Mexico State, coached by Marvin Menzies a former USC assistant basketball coach (2003-04). The Aggies went 21-14 in 2007-08 and tied for first in the Western Athletic Conference. They return only four lettermen, with their top returning scorer being guard Jonathan Gibson, who averaged 12.2 points per game last season. USC is 3-1 all-time against NMSU, but fell 97-84 in the last meeting on Nov. 16, 1994.

THE 2008-09 TROJANS -- USC returns three starters from last year's team which went 21-12, tied for third in the Pac-10 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Leading the way are junior All-Pac-10 forward Taj Gibson, junior guards Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis and senior forward Keith Wilkinson. Three other key members returning to health this season after injury-marred 2007-08 seasons are forwards Kasey Cunningham and Mamadou Diarra and guard Marcus Simmons. The other returning players are guards James Dunleavy (redshirted last season), Terence Green and Ryan Wetherell.

EIGHT IS ENOUGH -- The Trojans have added eight new players to the 2008-09 roster which returns 10 players from last season's squad. USC's incoming class, ranked No. 7 by HoopScoop, features consensus top five recruit DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan was named by as a preseason All-America honorable mention. Another addition is small forward Marcus Johnson who transfered from UConn last spring and will be eligible after the first semester. Talented transfer forward Alex Stepheson from North Carolina is on the team awaiting his appeal to the NCAA to be able to play this season due to family health concerns.

TROJANS IN THE RANKINGS -- Despite losing its top two scorers from a season ago, USC opens the season ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press and No. 21 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.

IN TIM WE TRUST -- Tim Floyd has an impressive track record in the collegiate ranks along with his NBA experience. He brings 20 years of head coaching experience at the collegiate and NBA levels and owns a 306-167 record in his 15 seasons as a college head coach at Idaho (1987-88), New Orleans (1989-94), Iowa State (1995-98) and USC (2005-08). He won his 300th career game on Feb. 7, 2008 at Washington. Floyd posted a 63-37 record in his first three seasons as USC's head coach, the most wins by a Trojan coach in his first three seasons. Ten of his first 15 seasons, Floyd has taken his team into the postseason (7 NCAA, 3 NIT). Floyd has helped the development of his student-athletes at each stop, as 13 players in his 15 years have made it to the NBA, including three players that did not even play high school ball.

PINCH-HITTING FOR MARKAS -- USC play-by-play announcer Rory Markas of flagship station 710 ESPN Radio had surgery to remove a blood clot from the side of his head on Nov. 3 and is expected to make a full recovery. While Markas is sidelined, stepping in for the immediate broadcasts of UC Irvine and New Mexico State will be Los Angeles Angels' play-by-play announcer Steve Physioc. Markas will be back to announce his 11th season of USC basketball as soon as he returns to health.

A HISTORY OF WINNING -- The Trojans have compiled a record of 1,437-1,029 in their first 102 years of intercollegiate basketball competition. The Trojans have had a .500 or better record in 73 of the first 102 seasons.

TROJAN RETURNS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PAC -- The Trojans are in the middle of the Pac-10 in returning production with 54.5 percent of their scoring (6th) and 70.0 percent of their rebounding (4th) back from the 2007-08 season. USC also has the conference's leading active career shot blocker in Taj Gibson (153) who also is sixth in career points (807) and third in career rebounds among current Pac-10 players. Daniel Hackett's 197 career assists are the ninth-highest among returning Pac-10 players.

USC PICKED TO FINISH THIRD IN PAC-10: At the annual Pac-10 Media Day held on Oct. 30, USC was picked to finish third in the Pac-10 Conference in a vote by the league media. UCLA was picked first with 379 votes, followed by Arizona State (325), USC (292), Arizona (241), Washington (217), Washington State (188), Oregon (147), California (143), Stanford (115) and Oregon State (40). USC was picked to finish sixth in 2007-08 and finished tied for third.

2007-08 SEASON IN REVIEW -- The Trojans went 21-12 in 2007-08, tied for third in the Pac-10 Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Leading the way was All-Pac-10 freshman guard O.J. Mayo who averaged 20.7 points per game and led all players in conference games with a 21.8 average. Not only did USC play in the top conference in the country, but the Trojans also played a rigorous non-conference schedule which included both 2008 NCAA finalists Kansas and Memphis. USC lost by four points at home to eventual NCAA Champion Kansas and by four points in overtime to NCAA runner-up Memphis at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. USC's top five players all averaged 8.6 points or more per game and the team held opponents to 39.4 percent shooting, tops among conference teams and among the best in the country. USC's freshmen and sophomores accounted for 96 percent of the Trojans' scoring, the highest percentage in the nation.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR -- USC's roster includes four players from outside of the country. Guards Daniel Hackett from Italy and Ryan Wetherell from Canada begin their third season with the Trojans, while forward Mamadou Diarra of Mali enters his second and forward Nikola Vucevic from Montenegro begins his first season at USC.


GIBSON A PRESEASON WOODEN AWARD CANDIDATE -- For the second consecutive season, USC forward Taj Gibson is listed as one of the 50 preseason Wooden Award candidates. Gibson is the first Trojan so listed since 2001 when Sam Clancy and David Bluthenthal were Wooden Award candidates and Clancy was a Naismith candidate. Gibson averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a sophomore, while setting the USC single-season blocked shots record with 83. Gibson is also listed as an Athlon Preseason All-American (HM) and No. 6 on Lindy's list of top center.

DEROZAN NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM -- USC freshman DeMar DeRozan has been named to the All-Freshman team. DeRozan was a McDonald's All-American and averaged 29.2 points his senior season at Compton High in Compton, Calif. Athlon Sports also named DeRozan to the preseason Pac-10 all-conference third team. DeRozan is also listed as a third-team selection to The Sporting News Preseason All-America team, the No. 9 small forward by Lindy's and the No. 3 freshman by Lindy's.

HACKETT IS MONEY FROM THE LINE -- USC junior Daniel Hackett made .823 percent of his free throws last season (79 of 96) to finish fifth among Pac-10 players from the line. His career free throw percentage of .807 (163 of 202) ranks third all-time among Trojan players.

LONG-RANGE LEWIS -- Junior Dwight Lewis enters the season with 51 career three-pointers made, the most on the USC roster. Lewis need to hit 16 three-point baskets this season to crack the Trojans' all-time top 20 in shots made from beyond the arc. He leads all returning Trojans in points scored, three-point baskets made and shots taken from the 2007-08 season. He and Taj Gibson are the Trojans' top returners in points per game, as they both averaged 10.8 last season.

FACING THE BEST -- USC's 2008-09 schedule features a potential 23 games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2007-08, including 14 that won 20 or more games. Also, nine of the teams that USC is set to face were in last year's tournament, including two games each with the five other Pac-10 teams which were in the NCAA Tournament. 'We think we have put together a great schedule for the USC fans,' said Floyd. 'At the same time, as challenging as our schedule was last season with Kansas, Memphis and Oklahoma, if you look at the RPI from a year ago this non-conference slate is even tougher.'

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 37 teams to under 60 points in Tim Floyd's first 100 games as USC's head coach. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, making it 52 times in the first 100 games under Floyd that USC has held its opponents to 40 percent shooting or less. USC was outshot from the field in just five of 33 games last season. USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 59 of the last 70 games.

CARDINAL & GOLD RECAP -- DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 29 points to lead the Gold team to a 90-74 win over the Cardinal team. Daniel Hackett added 18 and Taj Gibson 16 points for the Gold. Leonard Washington led the Cardinal team with 20 points.

USC DEFEATS APU IN EXHIBITION GAME -- USC defeated NAIA power Azusa Pacific 85-64 in an exhibition game at the Galen Cener on Nov. 3. DeMar DeRozan led the Trojans with 21 points. Only 11 of USC's 18 players suited up for the game.

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