USC Begins Pac-10 Tournament Play Against California On Thursday

March 10, 2009

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC Trojans (18-12, 9-9/T5th) will face the California Golden Bears (22-9, 11-7/T-3rd) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on March 12 at 6 p.m. USC is the No. 6 seed and Cal the No. 3 seed and the winner will face the winner of the No. 2 seed UCLA vs. No. 7 Washington State/No. 10 Oregon game.

BREAKING DOWN THE BEARS -- The Bears finished their season with an 83-66 loss at Arizona State on March 7 to finish tied for third in the Pac-10 with ASU. USC and Cal split a pair of games this season with USC winning 73-62 at home and falling 81-78 in overtime at Cal. Cal is led by junior guard Jerome Randle who is third in the conference in scoring with a 18.4 average. Cal leads the all-time series with USC, 126-117.

TROJANS DEFEAT OSU ON SENIOR NIGHT -- USC blew open a close game in the second half with a 15-2 run en route to a 68-52 win vs. Oregon State on March 7 at the Galen Center. Daniel Hackett scored seven points during the run and finished with a game-high 17 points. DeMar DeRozan added 16 points, Taj Gibson 14 and Leonard Washington 10. USC shot 52.1 percent and held OSU to 39.2 percent from the floor. Senior walk-on Terence Green, in his first game of the season, hit a three-pointer late in the game to send the Senior Night crowd into a frenzy.

USC AT THE PAC-10 TOURNAMENT -- USC is 9-10 all-time at the Pac-10 Tournament, including a 1-2 mark vs. Cal. USC lost to Cal 75-59 in the 1988 first round, defeated Cal 79-62 in the 2003 semifinals and lost 82-67 in the 2006 first round as a No. 6 seed. The No. 6 seed is 2-11 all-time at the Pac-10 Tournament, losing seven straight seasons in the first round. USC reached the 2007 tournament finals where it lost to Oregon and fell in the 2008 semifinals to UCLA. USC has reached the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament three times in its 11 years, falling to Arizona once (2002) and Oregon twice (2003, 2007).

BATTLE TESTED -- Through regular season games, USC's opponents had a combined 532-372 record (.588), eight of USC's opponents were a combined 84-152 (.356), while the other 22 were 448-220 (.671). Twenty-one of USC's 30 games were vs. teams that were .500 or better and 21 of those were against teams that have won 16 or more. USC's schedule is ranked the 14th toughest by Sagarin. Before the final weekend, USC played 14 consecutive games against teams two games over .500 or better.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS -- USC has played 11 games decided by 5 points or less (5-6). The Trojans have been within 5 points at some point with under 4 minutes to play in all but two of its 12 losses this season. In 6 of the Trojans' 12 losses, they were within 3 points with under a minute to play. Six of the Trojans last eight losses have come to teams that have won 22 or more games and eight of the 12 teams to beat USC have won 22 or more.

ANOTHER MAGIC JOHNSON? -- No, there is only one Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, but Marcus Johnson has had quite a magical impact on USC. After sitting out the first semester due to NCAA transfer rules, the Trojans went 7-3 with him in the lineup before he suffered a right rotator cuff injury. While out of the lineup, USC went 1-6. He returned on March 5 and USC has gone 2-0 to push its record to 9-3 in games Johnson plays.

DESPITE MISSING PIECES, FLOYD PUTS PUZZLE TOGETHER - USC was 9-9 in conference play despite having the whole team available for only 5 games. In those 5 games USC was undefeated (5-0). Already without forwards Kasey Cunningham for most of the season and Alex Stepheson the entire season, USC was forced to play the first 4 conference games without forward Leonard Washington (high left ankle sprain), and then lost then-leading scorer guard Dwight Lewis (left ankle sprain) for the 2 games in Washington. Sixth-man Marcus Johnson missed 7 games with a strained right rotator cuff and forward Nikola Vucevic missed 2 games with a strained lower back.

TIME TO PUT IT IN NEUTRAL -- USC is 1-2 this season and 12-10 in Tim Floyd's 4 years in neutral site games.

TROJANS TAKE THE FREE WAY TO VICTORY -- USC made 22 of 28 free throw attempts (78.6 percent) in the victory vs. Oregon on March 5 and 15 of 21 in the victory over OSU on March 7. USC improved to 15-4 when it has a better free throw percentage than the opposition and to 16-5 in games when taking more free throws than its opponent. In the two losses in the Bay Area on Feb. 26 and 28, the Trojans hit just 25 of 49 free throws (51.0 percent). The Trojans made 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) in the OT loss at California, then 9 of 21 (42.9 percent) in the loss at Stanford. In the two games, USC took three more free throws than the opposition, but scored 16 points less (USC: 25-for-49, Opp.: 41-for-46).

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF -- USC committed just eight turnovers at California on Feb. 26. It was the eighth time in the last 18 games in single-digits in turnovers, after registering 10 or more turnovers in each of the first 12 games. In the first 12 games USC averaged 16.8 turnovers and has averaged 12.3 in the last 18 games (221 turnovers). USC is 9-2 this season when committing less turnovers than its opponent.

JOHNSON MAKING IMPACT -- USC guard/forward Marcus Johnson, who transfered to USC from UConn last year and had to sit out the first semester, has stepped in an had an immediate impact. In his first 12 games, Johnson has averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 15.3 minutes. He scored a season-high 9 points, including a pair of crowd-pleasing dunks vs. Stanford on Jan. 29, then had 3 rebounds and scored 6 points, with another impressive dunk vs. Cal on Jan. 31. He scored 7 points, including the basket to give USC the lead, in the win at WSU on Jan. 24. He scored 8 points at Washington on Jan. 22 and made his first start on Jan. 11 vs. UCLA, scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 17 minutes of action. Johnson played in part of one exhibition game for UConn last season before transferring and thus had to sit out the first semester.

TAJ HAS BEEN A TOWER OF POWER -- Taj Gibson was diagnosed on Jan. 26 with an pneumonia, practiced Jan. 28 and scored 20 points in 38 minutes on Jan. 29 vs. Stanford, then dropped in 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds vs. California on Jan. 31. He has averaged 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in USC's first 30 games, including 13 double-doubles giving him 29 in his career. Gibson made a run at becoming the first Trojan to average a double-double since Jaha Wilson in 1994-95 (14.2 pts/10.1 reb.). The 25 points on Dec. 15 vs. Pepperdine was a career high and the 18 rebounds on Nov. 20 vs. SHU and Dec. 20 vs. NDSU tied a career high. Gibson has scored in double figures in 27 of 30 games and has 8 rebounds or more in 20 of 30 games. Gibson was named to the Midseason Top 30 for the Wooden Award. Gibson also has been rising up the USC career scoring charts and currently has 1,239 points, 18th all time in scoring by a Trojan. Purvis Miller (1978-81) is 17th with 1,247 career points. Gibson also has 858 career rebounds, second all-time by a Trojan.

BLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK -- Taj Gibson was held without a block for the first time this season on Feb. 19 vs. Washington State. In fact, it snapped a streak of 46 consecutive games with at least one block (dating back to the 2007-08 season). That was the longest active streak by any men's college player (courtesy of STATS, LLC). Gibson has bounced back with 19 blocks in the last five games to give him a conference-leading 86 this season and breaks his school record of 84 set in 2008. Gibson ranks sixth nationally in blocks per game (2.9).

DEMAR IS D'MAN -- Freshman DeMar DeRozan has averaged 14.2 points (298) and 5.8 rebounds (121) in his last 21 games. He reached double figures in scoring 13-straight games before being held to 5 on Jan. 24 at WSU. He scored a career-high 22 points in the win vs. ASU on Jan. 15. On Jan. 2 at Oregon, he had his first career double-double (14 pts/12 reb) and added his second at ASU on Feb. 15 (16 pts/10 reb). DeRozan currently ranks 6th all-time in scoring by a USC freshman with 386 points, 5th in scoring average (12.9), 5th in FT attempts (117), 6th in FT made (76), T-7th in rebounds (160), 9th in FG% (.518) and T-9th in rebound average (5.3).

HE CAN SURE HACKETT -- Junior point guard Daniel Hackett is 4th in the Pac-10 with 4.8 assists per game and is 4th in total assists with 143. He currently has 340 in his career, 6th all-time by a Trojan. Gus Williams (1973-75) is 5th on USC's all-time assist list with 362. Hackett recorded a career-high 13 assists in the game at Oklahoma on Dec. 4. His assist total was the most by a Trojan since Brandon Granville set the school record with 15 vs. Memphis on Nov. 23, 1999. Hackett's 13 assists are tied for the fourth most in a single game by a USC player, along with Larry Friend (13 on Dec. 6, 1985 vs. ASU) and Casey Jones (13 on Dec. 18, 1976 vs. Baylor). He also has 41 steals this season and 101 in his career. Hackett scored 26 points at Cal on Feb. 26 to tie his career high in points.

THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Dwight Lewis miss two games (Jan. 22 and 24) with a sprained left ankle, but bounced quickly with 20 points at UCLA on Feb. 4 and 21 at Arizona on Feb. 12. At Arizona, Lewis hit a career-high 6 three-pointers, including his first 5 attempts in the 2nd half. He then led USC in scoring with 17 vs. WSU on Feb. 19. He has made a team-leading 44 three-pointers this season and 95 in his career to tie Nick Young for 16th place on USC's all-time three-point baskets made list. Rodney Chatman is 15th with 105 career 3-point baskets. Lewis scored a career-high 26 points in the 74-69 win vs. USF on Dec. 1 and followed that up with 25 points at Oklahoma on Dec. 4, at the time his two best career scoring outputs. He matched his career high with 26 points at Oregon on Jan. 2, including making 4 three-pointers. Lewis scored in double figures in a career-high 9 straight games to start this season and in 22 of 28 games overall. He was held scoreless vs. Oregon State in the regular season finale, his first game without scoring since his freshman season.

ENJOYING THE HOME COOKING -- USC is 15-2 (.882) at home this season. The loss to UCLA on Jan. 11 snapped an 8-game home winning streak this season and a 12-game home winning streak at the Galen Center dating back to 2007-08, a Galen Center record. The last time USC had a better home winning percentage was during the 1991-92 season when they were 14-1 (.933).

BREAKING DOWN THE LOSSES -- Although USC has lost 12 games this season, they have fallen to some quality teams and 8 of the 12 games were decided by 9 points or less. USC has lost to Seton Hall (16-14), No. 15 Missouri (25-6), Oregon St. (13-16), No. 4 Oklahoma (27-4), No. 20 UCLA twice (24-7), No. 16 Washington twice (24-7), No. 38 Arizona (19-12), No. 21 Arizona State (22-8), No. 34 California (22-9) and Stanford (17-12). Through games of March 7, the combined record of the teams USC has lost to is 257-109 (.702).

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 51 teams to 60 points or less in Tim Floyd's first 130 games as USC's head coach, including 12 this season. The Trojans held 20 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 67 teams under 40 percent shooting in the first 130 games under Floyd, 15 times this season. USC was outshot from the field in just five of 33 games last season and only 6 times this season (Mizz, OSU, ASU, Uof A-2 & UW). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 83 of the last 100 games.

WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC outrebounded the opposition in its first 11 games before being beaten on the glass 34-32 by Oral Roberts on Dec. 29, but has had a rebounding edge in 23 of 30 games this season. USC has enjoyed a 4.9 rebound edge per game, good for 36th in the country. USC was outrebounded 40-30 by Washington on Feb. 21, its largest rebound deficit in a game this the season.

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