The Trojans are headed to the semifinals Friday night at 6 p.m. at STAPLES or on FSN. You can watch the post-game press conference on USCTrojans.com.
- USC's leading scorer Nikola Vucevic managed just seven points on a night when he was saddled with foul trouble from the start. Several Trojans stepped up to fill the offensive void, while the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year covered up the loss in the interior D. Marcus Simmons held Cal's bruising power forward Harper Kamp to just six points (averaged 14.6 ppg this season). "Marcus does a great job defending anyone of any size," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. "It helped us today for being sized down." O'Neill joked that he actually thanked the refs for putting Vucevic in foul trouble.
- On both ends, Alex Stepheson played his best game of the season. In 39 minutes, he filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, 16 rebounds and dominant post defense. "He anchored our whole team tonight," O'Neill declared. Despite a slow start as a team (three points in the first 8:46), Stepheson was a calming presence. "We've been there before. We're a veteran team," the senior captain said. Before Friday's big game, Big Al said he has a date with the cold tub.
- Since changing the starting lineup, USC has won six out of seven. Without the physical and mental burden of being the starting point guard, Maurice Jones has unlocked his offensive talents. Today, he conducted an offensive symphony with darting drives, no-look dishes and the occasional sweet jumper. "It helped Mo," said O'Neill about the change. "It made Mo more effective on the second side of the court with his quickness." The Bears simply had no one who could stay in front of him.
- Are the Trojans now IN the Big Dance? "I have no idea," said O'Neill, who defers to the selection committee. One thing is for sure, two more wins and USC is guaranteed a spot in the field of 68.