USC To Face No. 9 Tennessee At Galen Center On Saturday
Dec. 16, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CA -- The USC Trojans (4-4) will face the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers (8-1) on Dec. 19 in the Galen Center at 1:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live Fox Sports Net with Barry Tompkins and Marques Johnson calling the action and Michael Eaves providing sideline reports. It will also be offered on a delayed basis on USCTrojans.com. The game will air live on USC radio flagship station ESPN Radio 710 AM with Rory Markas and Jim Hefner calling the action.
SCOUTING THE VOLS -- The No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers are 8-1, with the only setback coming to No. 4 Purdue by a score of 73-72 in the finals of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Vols are coming off a 77-58 win vs. Wyoming on Dec. 15. Through the team's first nine games, Tennessee has three players averaging in double figures in points: Scotty Hopson (13.9), Tyler Smith (12.2) and Wayne Chism (11.7), while Cameron Tatum is averaging 9.9. Tennessee has averaged 23.1 more points than its opponents so far this season. Tennessee leads the all-time series with USC 4-1, winning the last meeting 74-70 on Dec. 30, 1997. USC's head coach Kevin O'Neill was the head coach for the Volunteers for the 1995-97 seasons.
USC CAGES BENGALS -- USC jumped out to a 25-6 lead vs. Idaho State in the first 10 minutes of the game, then had to fight off several Bengal rallies to win 59-53 at the Galen Center on Dec. 11. Idaho State three times grabbed the lead mid-second half, but with USC trailing 41-40 and 9:51 left in the game, the Trojans went on a 10-2 run to gain a seven-point advantage and the lead never got below five points the rest of the way. Alex Stepheson had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had eight points, nine rebounds and a career-best 5 blocks which contributed to USC's school-record 13 blocks in the game. Dwight Lewis had a game-high 19 points.
DIAMOND HEAD CLASSIC ON DECK -- USC leaves for Hawaii on Dec. 20 and will play three games (Dec. 22, 23 & 25) in the inaugural Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center. First up for USC is Western Michigan (3-4) on Dec. 22 at 3:00 p.m. on ESPNU. Western Michigan returned three starters from a team that went 10-21 a year ago. They will face Kennesaw State on Dec. 19 before facing the Trojans. Western Michigan is led in scoring by senior guard David Kool (21.7 ppg). The winner of this game will play the winner of Northeastern/St. Mary's on Dec. 23 at 2:00 p.m., while the losers of each game will square off on Dec. 23 at noon. The final games will be played on Dec. 25. The other teams in the eight-team tournament are UNLV, SMU, College of Charleston and host Hawaii.
SOMETHING HAS GOT TO GIVE... -- USC enters the game having allowed 465 points in its first eight games (58.1 ppg), its fewest through eight games since allowing 449 points in the first eight games of the 1959-60 season. Tennessee, however, comes in averaging 84.2 points per game and scoring over 100 points twice.
I'LL TAKE THAT... -- Sophomore Nikola Vucevic (10.8) and junior Alex Stepheson (9.8) are the top two rebounders in the Pac-10. Through games of Dec. 13, they rank No. 17 and No. 36 respectively in the country in rebounding and USC is the only team with two players ranking in the top 50 in rebounding.
AS RUST SHAKES OFF, STEPHESON SHINES -- Alex Stepheson showed signs he is shaking off the rust of more than a year away from game action, as he scored a career-high 22 points at Georgia Tech on Dec. 5 and then had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks vs. Sacramento State on Dec. 8 for his second career double-double. Stepheson then had his third career double-double vs. Idaho State on Dec. 11 with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. He played in his first game as a Trojan on Nov. 27 vs. Coppin State and registered his first career double-double on Nov. 29 vs. Nebraska with 13 points and a career-best 12 rebounds. In his first six games, he has averaged 12.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
TROJANS CALL ON THE SWAT TEAM -- USC had a school-record 13 blocked shots in the game vs. Idaho State on Dec. 11. That came on the heels of tying the old school record with 12 blocks vs. Sacramento State on Dec. 8. USC has 33 blocks in the last four games, after having a total of nine in the first four games.
THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Senior Dwight Lewis has scored 1,146 career points, 23rd all-time at USC and 13 points behind Errick Craven (2002-05) who is in 22nd place with 1,159. Lewis entered the season fifth among returning Pac-10 players in career points. He also ranks 14th on USC's all-time three-point baskets list with 116 which ranks eighth among returning conference players and three behind Adam Spanich (1998-99) who ranks 13th on USC's all-time list. 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 scored 22 points in his first game this season and has had 10 career 20-point games.
WHAT TURNOVER PROBLEM? -- USC has 136 turnovers through 8 games (17.0 per game), just four less than it had through 8 games last season (132). That team averaged 16.8 turnovers in the first 12 games, then averaged 12.4 over the final 23 contests en route to a 22-13 season.
DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 57 teams to 60 points or less in the last five seasons (143 games), including four this season. The Trojans held 17 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 72 teams under 40 percent shooting in the last 143 games. USC was outshot from the field just nine times last season and three times so far this season (Nebraska, Texas & GT). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 90 of the last 113 games. USC held Sac. State to 23.0 percent shooting on Dec. 8, the lowest percentage by a Trojan opponent since Loyola Marymount shot 22.4 percent from the field on Dec. 9, 1998. The last two Trojan opponents have combined to make 28.8 percent (34-for-118) from the field.
WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC is 6-1-1 in the rebound battle this season and has outrebounded each of its last six opponents (Coppin State, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia Tech, Sac. State & Idaho State) for a total rebound advantage of 251-185.
JOHNSON'S SECOND-CHANCE SEASON -- USC redshirt senior guard/forward Marcus Johnson, who played the second semester last season after transferring to USC from UConn, was granted another year of eligibilty by the NCAA following the season, but penalized two games for playing in an exhibition game in the 2007-08 season. USC is 16-7 in games he has been available to play in the two seasons. In his first game this season on Nov. 27 vs. CSU, Johnson had 11 points, three rebounds and a steal. He had his Trojan highs of 12 points and 4 steals at Georgia Tech on Dec. 5. He then matched career highs with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, while scoring 7 points vs. Sac. State on Dec. 8. Johnson leads USC with 16 steals, despite only playing in six games.
SIMMONS' SUMMER SHOOTING SPREE -- Junior guard Marcus Simmons has averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in USC's first eight games. He developed into USC's defensive stopper late last season and spent the summer working on his offense, including shooting until he made 1,000 shots a day...that is until his wrist started hurting and he had to back off some. It seems to have worked, though, as he is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the free throw line.
SMITH STEPPING UP -- Junior guard Donte Smith has averaged 7.4 points through USC's first eight games and leads the team with 11 three-pointers made (11-for-32, 34.4 percent), just one fewer three-pointer than he made all last season. In the game vs. Nebraska on Nov. 29, Smith was 4-for-4 from the field, including hitting two three-pointers.