USC Takes on Saint Mary's In Diamond Head Classic Second Round

Dec. 23, 2009

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HONOLULU, HAWAII -- The USC Trojans (6-4) will face the Saint Mary's Gaels (10-1) on Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. (PT) in the second day of the inaugural Diamond Head Classic being held at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hi. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU with Jon Sciambi and Jay Williams calling the action. It will also be offered on a delayed basis on 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 GAELS -- Saint Mary's (10-1) defeated Northeastern 78-67 yesterday for its eighth consecutive win. SMC's only loss was a 72-70 setback vs. Vanderbilt on Nov. 20. The Gaels are led by center Omar Samhan who has averaged 21.5 points and 11.6 rebounds. Freshman Matthew Dellavedova is second on the team in scoring with a 13.9 average. Saint Mary's has averaged making 9.1 three-pointers per game, 15th in the nation. USC leads the all-time series with Saint Mary's 7-0, winning the last meeting 69-63 on Nov. 18, 2006.

USC COMES BACK TO DEFEAT WESTERN MICHIGAN -- USC overcame 22.7 percent shooting in the first half and a 13-point deficit to defeat Western Michigan 55-51 on Dec. 22 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hi. in a Diamond Head Classic first-round game. Mike Gerrity keyed the Trojan comeback by scoring 15 of his 17 points in the second half to lead USC back from a 27-18 halftime deficit. Marcus Johnson, Nikola Vucevic and Dwight Lewis added 10 points each for USC.

ON DECK AT THE DIAMOND HEAD CLASSIC -- The winner of today's USC-SMC game will play the winner of UNLV/Hawaii on Dec. 25 at 6:30 p.m. (PT), while the losers of each game will square off on Dec. 25 at 4:30 p.m. (PT). UNLV is 11-1 and defeated SMU 67-53 in the first round. Host Hawaii is 6-4 and defeated College of Charleston 84-71 in their first-round game.

TROJANS IN HAWAII -- USC is playing in its sixth tournament in Hawaii since the 1975-76 season and has posted a 10-6 record, winning the Rainbow Classic in the 1975-76 season. USC last played in Hawaii in the 2004-05 season at the Rainbow Classic and fell to host Hawaii in the finals, 72-68. This trip is a homecoming for assistant coach Gib Arnold who played his high school basketball at Punahou High (same high school as President Barack Obama) where Arnold earned Hawaii's Gatorade Player of the Year honors.

TROJANS SHOWING STINGY DEFENSE -- USC enters the game having allowed 571 points in its first 10 games (57.1 ppg), its fewest through 10 games since allowing 521 points in the first 10 games of the 1954-55 season. USC has held its last four opponents to 55 points or less and six times in 10 games this season.

SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE -- USC has allowed 57.1 points per game while Saint Mary's is averaging 84.4 points and three times have scored 100 or more points. Saint Mary's lowest point total this season was 68 in a 68-63 win at Utah State on Dec. 5.

I'LL TAKE THAT... -- Sophomore Nikola Vucevic (10.4) and junior Alex Stepheson (10.0) are the top two rebounders in the Pac-10. Through games of Dec. 20, they ranked tied for No. 18 and No. 22 respectively in the country in rebounding and USC is the only team with two players ranking in the top 50.

MORE DOUBLE-DOUBLES THAN DOUBLE-D -- Sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic already has five double-doubles in his first 10 games this season to lead all Pac-10 players and more than DeMar DeRozan had last year in his phenomenal freshman season. Vucevic had 15 points and 10 rebounds vs. Tennessee on Dec. 19 for his fifth double-double. He had 14 points and posted a career-high 15 rebounds on Dec. 8 vs. Sac. State, a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. LMU on Nov. 21, 15 points and 12 rebounds vs. Coppin St. on Nov. 27 and 18 points and 14 rebounds at Texas on Dec. 3. Through 10 games he is averaging 13.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, after averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman last season. His 10.4 rebounds per game leads all Pac-10 players.

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 18-7 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 17 steals and is third in rebounds with 45 and blocks with eight.

SIMMONS' SUMMER SHOOTING SPREE -- Junior guard Marcus Simmons has averaged 5.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in USC's first 10 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 48.6 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the free throw line.

SMITH STEPPING UP -- Junior guard Donte Smith has averaged 6.5 points through USC's first 10 games and leads USC with 12 three-pointers made (12-for-35, 34.3 percent), as many as 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. Smith came off the bench to scored six big points down the stretch in USC's 55-51 win vs. Western Michigan on Dec. 22. He started at point guard the first eight games.

STEPHESON'S DOUBLE-DOUBLE MACHINE ROLLING -- 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. In the last game vs. Tennessee on Dec. 19, Stepheson had 19 points and a new career high with 15 rebounds to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 13-19. 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 then career-best 12 rebounds. In his first eight games, he has averaged 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.

I LIKE MIKE -- What is not to like for Trojan fans as the senior has played two games, leading USC to a 77-55 upset of No. 9 Tennessee on Dec. 19 and then scoring 15 of his team-high 17 points after halftime to help USC to a 55-51 comeback victory over Western Michigan on Dec. 22. He has averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the first two games. His 10 assists vs. Tennessee were the most by a Trojan since Daniel Hackett had 13 on Dec. 4, 2008 at Oklahoma. He has 13 assists and seven turnovers, the only Trojan with a positive assist to turnover ratio.

THE WAIT MAY BE OVER FOR WASHINGTON -- USC sophomore forward Leonard Washington had to sit out the first semester due to academic issues. He will be eligible once the grades post which could come as early as today. Washington was fifth in scoring for USC as a freshman with a 6.1 average in 30 games, 13 starts. He scored in double figures six times last season with a high of 17 vs. North Dakota State on Dec. 20, 2008.

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 39 blocks in the last six games, after having a total of nine in the first four games.

THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Senior Dwight Lewis has scored 1,177 career points, 21st all-time at USC and 27 points behind Maurice Williams (1979-82) who is in 20th place with 1,204. 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 117 which ranks eighth among returning conference players and two 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 vs. UCR on Nov. 17 and 21 vs. Tennesse on Dec. 19 and has had 11 career 20-point games.

WHAT TURNOVER PROBLEM? -- USC has 165 turnovers through 10 games (16.5 per game), seven less than it had through 10 games last season (172). 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 59 teams to 60 points or less in the last five seasons (145 games), including six this season. The Trojans held 17 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 73 teams under 40 percent shooting in the last 145 games. USC was outshot from the field just nine times last season and four times so far this season (Nebraska, Texas, GT & WMU). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 91 of the last 115 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 four Trojan opponents have combined to make 32.7 percent (73-for-223) from the field.

WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC is 7-1-1 in the rebound battle this season and has outrebounded seven of its last eight opponents (Coppin State, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia Tech, Sac. State, Idaho State & Tennessee) for a total rebound advantage of 325-240.

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