Men's Basketball Opens Season Tuesday At Galen Center

Nov. 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The USC Trojans (0-0) will face the UC Riverside Highlanders (0-1) in the season and home opener on Nov. 17 at the Galen Center at 7:30 p.m.

BREAKING DOWN THE HIGHLANDERS -- UC Riverside (0-1) lost 67-51 at New Mexico on Nov. 14 to open its season. Guard Sean Cunningham led the Highlanders with 11 points and forward Konner Veveto added seven points and 13 rebounds. UCR was 17-13 a year ago and returns 10 lettermen from that squad. The Highlanders are led by former Trojan Kyle Austin (2007) who was named by Yahoo Sports as the preseason Big West Player of the Year, after averaging 16.2 points in 2008-09. The Big West media predicted a fourth-place finish in conference this season for UC Riverside. USC is 3-0 all-time vs. UCR with the last win being 70-57 on Dec. 29, 2007.

TROJANS IN HOME OPENERS -- USC defeated UC Irvine 78-55 in the season and home opener last year, snapping a three-game losing streak for the Trojans in their first game of the season. USC has opened at home the last five seasons and are 2-3 in those games, with both wins coming against UC Irvine. USC is 70-33 in season openers. USC had won 10 straight home openers before falling to start the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons.

ON DECK -- USC's next opponent will be Loyola Marymount (1-2) on Saturday, Nov. 21 at the Galen Center at 5 p.m. The Lions went 3-28 last season, but return their top four scorers, three of which are sophomores. Leading the way is All-WCC sophomore guard Jarred DuBois who averaged 13.5 points per game last season. LMU lost to Boise St. (90-87) and Montana (64-63) and defeated North Dakota (83-60) at the Montana Tournament. They also will host UC Irvine on Nov. 18 before facing the Trojans. USC is 41-5 all-time vs. LMU with the last meeting being a 67-50 victory for the Trojans on Dec. 2, 2006.

K.O. CHRONICLES -- Kevin O'Neill was named the USC head coach on June 20, 2009 and brings 13 years of collegiate and NBA head coaching experience to the program. He has worked in the coaching ranks for 30 years and spent the 2008-09 season as a special assistant to the general manager of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. He has served as a collegiate head coach at Marquette (1990-94), Tennessee (1995-97), Northwestern (1998-00) and Arizona (2008). He also was the NBA's Toronto Raptors' head coach in 2004. O'Neill has compiled a 171-180 career mark as a collegiate head coach, despite for the most part taking over programs that were rebuilding. When he served as an assistant at Arizona under Lute Olson from 1987-89, the Wildcats went 82-19 and went to the Final Four one season. He was named Olson's successor for the 2008 season and guided Arizona to a 19-15 record and into the NCAA Tournament despite four of its top five players being freshmen or sophomores. In six of his 12 seasons as a college head coach, he has guided his teams into the postseason.

PAC-10 PREDICTIONS -- USC was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 Conference in a vote by the league media. California was picked first, Washington second, UCLA third, Arizona fourth, Oregon State fifth, Oregon sixth, Arizona State seventh, Washington State eighth and Stanford 10th.

CARDINAL & GOLD RECAP -- Alex Stepheson scored 13 points and Nikola Vucevic seven to lead the Gold team to a 36-20 win in USC's annual Cardinal and Gold Scrimmage held on Oct. 25 at the Galen Center. In what amounted to half of a game as the teams played two 10-minutes periods, the Gold team jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game and never looked back. During that stretch, each Gold starter - Stepheson, Vucevic, Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis - made a basket, including a three-pointer by Gerrity. The Cardinal team was led by six points each from forwards Leonard Washington and Kasey Cunningham.

USC DEFEATS CSUDH IN EXHIBITION GAME -- Dwight Lewis led all scorers with 17 points to propel USC to a come-from-behind 64-47 win over CS Dominguez Hills at the Galen Center on Nov. 1. The Trojans, played without six players including four potential starters, struggled to get their feet under themselves and trailed 35-29 at halftime. USC began the second half on a 7-0 run and outscored CSUDH 35-12 after the break for the comfortable victory. A jumper by Evan Smith at the 15:24 mark gave USC a 40-38 lead and began an 11-1 run for the Trojans and they never looked back. Smith scored eight points, hit two three-pointers, had a block, steal and assist in 31 minutes of action. Davis Rozitis came off the bench to score 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Marcus Johnson also just missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds, while dishing out three assists. Kasey Cunningham played 32 minutes and had 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. He was limited to a total of 41 minutes last season after suffering a knee injury which required surgery.

FACING THE BEST -- USC's 2009-10 schedule features 12 games against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last season and another 10 potential games against teams which were in either the NIT or CBI tournaments, meaning a possilbe 22 of 30 games against teams that played in the 2009 postseason and 23 of 30 against teams that posted a .500 or better record.

USC CLAIMS FIRST PAC-10 TOURNAMENT TITLE -- USC erased a 15-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 23 Arizona State 66-63 on March 14, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to capture the school's first Pac-10 Tournament title. The Trojans had trailed since the first minute of the game until Daniel Hackett's free throw with 42 seconds left gave USC a 64-63 lead. Taj Gibson then took over, blocking a James Harden shot and making two free throws to give USC the 66-63 win. DeMar DeRozan scored 16 of his career-high 25 points in the second half to lead USC back. Hackett finished with 19 points and a team-leading six rebounds. Dwight Lewis added 13 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 1:04 left to bring the Trojans within one point. USC was the No. 6 seed and became the lowest seeded team to win the Pac-10 Conference Tournament.

THE MARK OF VICTORY -- USC was 12-0 when holding teams to under 60 points last season, 15-2 when holding teams to 40 percent shooting or less, 11-2 when committing less turnovers, 17-5 when having a better FT% and 20-5 when taking more FTs.

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF -- USC committed a season-low five turnovers in the Pac-10 Finals vs. ASU. It was the ninth time in the final 23 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 averaged 12.4 in the final 23 games (285 turnovers).

HE'S BAAACK...! -- USC redshirt senior guard/forward Marcus Johnson, who transfered to USC from UConn last year and had to sit out the first semester, stepped in an had an immediate impact for the Trojans in the final semester last season. Since then, he was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA and will have to sit out the first two games of this season due to playing in an exhibition game at UConn in 2007-08. Johnson appeared in 16 games for USC and averaged 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds. He brought leadership and a variety of intangibles to the team and they responded with a 13-4 record in games that he was available to play. He also missed seven games with a right rotator cuff strain and the Trojans went 1-6 while he was out of the lineup.

A HISTORY OF WINNING -- The Trojans have compiled a record of 1,459-1,042 in their 103 years of intercollegiate basketball competition. The Trojans have had a .500 or better record in 74 of the first 103 seasons.

TROJANS IN THE RANKINGS -- USC is currently ranked tied for No. 35 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and is unranked in the AP and CBSSportsline polls.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR -- USC's roster includes three players from outside of the country. Guard Ryan Wetherell from Canada is in his fourth year on the team, forward Nikola Vucevic from Montenegro is in his second and forward/center Davis Rozitis is in his first year at USC.

INJURY UPDATES -- Alex Stepheson has been out of action the last 2-3 weeks with a osteochondral defect (OCD) of his left knee...he is listed as day-to-day. Evan Smith has a subluxation of his left shoulder and has been out of action since the exhibition on Nov. 1...he is expected to practice on Nov. 16...he is listed as day-to-day.

TROJANS IN THE 2009 NBA DRAFT -- USC's DeMar DeRozan was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the ninth pick and Taj Gibson was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 26th pick at the 2009 NBA Draft on June 25, 2009. It marked the first time in school history that the Trojans have had two players chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft. With the selection of DeRozan at No. 9, USC becomes the only school in the last three NBA Drafts to have a player taken in the first 16 picks, as he joins 2007 selection Nick Young of Washington (at No. 16) and 2008 pick O.J. Mayo of Memphis who was drafted by Minnesota (at No. 3) and had his rights traded to the Grizzlies. USC is also one of seven schools in the country to have had at least four players taken in the first round of the NBA draft over the past three seasons.

THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Senior Dwight Lewis enters the season with 1,047 points, good for 32nd all-time at USC and fifth among returning Pac-10 players. He also ranks 15th on USC's all-time three-point baskets list with 106 which ranks eighth among returning conference players. Lewis led USC with a 14.4 scoring average in 2008-09, as well in three-point baskets (55) and free throw shooting (74.8 percent). He reached double figures in scoring in 27 of his 33 games last season, scoring a career-high 26 twice (vs. San Francisco on Dec. 1 and at Oregon on Jan. 2). He had seven 20-point games and has nine in his career. He also set his career highs in rebounds (8 vs. Pepperdine on Dec. 15) and three-pointers in a game (6 at Arizona on Feb. 12) last season.

DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 53 teams to 60 points or less in the last four seasons (135 games), including 14 last season. The Trojans held 17 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 69 teams under 40 percent shooting in the last 135 games. USC was outshot from the field just nine times last season (Mizz, OSU, ASU-2, Uof A-2, UW, Cal & MSU). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 85 of the last 105 games.

WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC outrebounded the opposition last season in its first 11 games before being beaten on the glass 34-32 by ORU on Dec. 29 and had a rebounding edge in 27 of 35 games.

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