3-Points: UCLA Prep

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The Trojans returned to their defensive roots in search of a consistent identity ahead of the UCLA crosstown clash.

  • USC practiced late night Monday in an effort to mimic Wednesday's primetime showdown at Pauley and restore their defensive intensity.  "That was a battle," Donte Smith said about yesterday's practice.  "I was tired afterwards."  While head coach Kevin O'Neill wants to see energy and fire against the Bruins, he has the bigger picture in mind as well.  "We have to establish an identity here in our program that we are going to play hard all the time," O'Neill said.  "If you don't play defense, you can't compete." 

  • USC begins the second half of their Pac-10 schedule this week, which means teams are likely to adjust after the first meeting.  "I'm sure they are going to make some adjustments," O'Neill said.  At the end of each game's eve practice, the coaching staff goes over select game film with the players, which in this case featured a lot of the previous match-up at Galen Center.  "All players at any level, the only time they want to watch film is if it is about them," O'Neill joked that it is easier to get their attention and instruct.  "They will watch more if they are in it.  It's a coach's fact!"

  • The Trojans have an opportunity to beat UCLA for the fifth straight time, which has not happened since 1943.  Since beating the Bruins at Galen Center, USC is just 2-4, while UCLA is 5-1.  "We're two teams headed in opposite directions, but that doesn't matter," said O'Neill, who is obviously expecting a battle at Pauley.  The Trojans have been critical of their own play of late.  Smith graded the team's play at a "D-" for the first half of the Pac-10, while Alex Stepheson called it a "D."  The Trojans will need to bring their D to leave Westwood with a W.

And 1...

  • USC athletic director Pat Haden challenged Alex Stepheson to a free throw shooting competition before practice.  The big man won a spirited battle by making three out of five from the stripe, while Haden dropped two of his freebies.  Here's Stepheson joking about the shootout and what it would mean to go undefeated versus UCLA in his career...

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