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February 2013 Archives

Pac-12 Women's Tourney in Seattle

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The USC women's basketball regular season comes to an end this week with a two-game trip to Arizona to face the Wildcats (March 1) and Sun Devils (March 3).  Then, the Women of Troy will battle for a spot in the NCAA Tournament at the Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Seattle starting a week from today (March 7).

Ten of the 11 conference tournament games will be on Pac-12 Networks with the final being broadcast by ESPN2. The Trojans are currently tied for 8th in the conference with Arizona.

Click here for ticket and tournament info.


Senior CLASS Award Nominee: Greg Zebrack

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USC baseball outfielder Greg Zebrack was named one of 30 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes student-athletes who excel both on and off the field, and are NCAA Division I seniors with notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

Click here for the full story.

Zebrack is working on his Master's in Business Administration at USC after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is starting for the Trojans in his final year of eligibility and hitting .313 with a homerun and three doubles through 8 games.

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Trojan League of LA

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USC athletics hosted a star-studded event this past weekend for the Trojan League of Los Angeles featuring legendary wideouts Lynn Swann and J.K. McKay as keynote speakers plus four different panels. 

Among the panels in the John McKay Center, four-time Olympic gold medalist John Naber led a quintet of Olympians including London champions April Ross and Jenn Kessy (silvers in beach volleyball), Tumua Anae (gold in water polo) and Haley Anderson (silver in swimming marathon).  The other panel topics were sports in business, sports and the media and championship coaching.

From left: Ross, Kessy, Anae, Anderson and Naber.
Naber-Olympians-DA.jpg(Photo by Dan Avila)

Storming the 'Cats then the Court

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USC men's basketball put together its best offensive performance of the season dropping 89 points on No. 11 Arizona in an upset victory.  The Trojans' first win over a ranked team in two years was fittingly celebrated by a Galen Center court storm.

Here's a look at the highlights and the celebration:


Going for Gold: Anni Espar

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

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Anni Espar has already made a huge splash in her debut season as a member of the USC women's water polo team. She is one of the best water polo players in the world and has been in dominant form for the undefeated Trojans. 

As one of two Olympians on this year's team, Espar not only played in the London games, but won a silver medal with her Spanish team and was the second-leading goal scorer in the event. 

"It was an amazing experience. It was the first time the Spanish National Women's Water Polo Team had played in the Olympics so it was really special. I've played in other world championships but it's just not the same thing. We lived with all the other Spanish athletes. We got to meet Pau Gasol. It was great," said Espar. 

Along with her success at the Games, Espar has a long list of accomplishments and accolades all achieved before her 20th birthday. She was named the European Women's Water Polo player of the year in 2012, won gold at both the 2011 European Cup with the Spanish National Team and with Spain's FINA Junior World Championship Team the same year. 
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Finally back from international play, she was named the MPSF player of the week this week, after scoring 10 goals in her first major tournament as a Trojan. Three of her goals came in an 11-10 win over UCLA in the semifinals. She punched in four more later that day in the Trojans upset victory over No. 1 ranked Stanford. 

Espar says the adjustment from Spain to Los Angeles has been a little weird. Along with many of her fellow classmates, it's her first time on her own; learning to cook for herself, remembering to do laundry, and adjusting to life far away from her family, but the team has made it easy to adapt by being so supportive. 

And, she has already learned a lot from coach Jovan Vavic, an 11-time National Coach of the Year.

"I like the way he coaches because he hates losing and I hate losing. When coaches are like that, when they can't stand losing a game, it's really motivating to keep working hard," said Espar. 

With so many accomplishments already checked off her list, one may wonder whether she has anything else she hopes to achieve athletically. 

"When I was younger my goal was to be in the Olympics. Now that I've done that, my goal is to win the gold medal. I don't want to quit water polo until I win the gold medal. So I don't care what I have to do, I will do it."

Espar believes there is still much work to be done, but also has faith that this team can accomplish anything together. 

"I am really self-demanding. I love improving and I love being corrected. I have a lot of things to improve and that's one of the reasons I am here. I am a perfectionist, I want to improve in everything I can. I think as a team, if we keep working and keep playing the way we are then we can have a great season and be in the finals in May."

The top-ranked women's water polo team starts MPSF play this week at California on Saturday. 

Student-Athletes Get Real

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

As part of an ongoing initiative on campus, six Trojan athletes sat down with students in Webb Tower on Wednesday night to share what it's really like to be a student-athlete at USC. Faculty master Tim Biblarz has been hosting monthly events with guest speakers in hopes of shedding light on different aspects of the USC community with freshmen. 

The panel was made up of junior volleyball player Alexis Olgard, junior soccer player Autumn Altamirano, senior women's basketball player Christina Marinacci, football players Dion Bailey and Marqise Lee, and junior baseball player Kevin Swick.  
 
The athletes introduced themselves, talked about their decisions to come to USC, and from there on out students in the audience had the opportunity to host a Q&A. They were able to share many of the unknown realities of what being a college athlete entails, like the necessity for efficient time management skills, their fairly limited social lives, and daily sacrifices they make as a part of a team. 

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Each athlete shared their favorite moment as a Trojan in their respective sports including USC baseball's victory over UCLA at Dodger Stadium last year (Swick's favorite) and the football team's victory in South Bend two  
seasons ago (Lee's favorite). The student-athletes compared and contrasted experiences in classroom settings,
dealing with professors and tutors, balancing homework on road trips, and reminded the student audience that being an athlete at USC means being under constant scrutiny. 

"You have to remember that just as much as you want to be in our shoes, we want to be in yours," said Bailey. His fellow athletes echoed an "amen" in agreement. 

"I love playing here and being a student here. I've always wanted to go to USC. But I think there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that most people don't realize we have to deal with as student-athletes. You see the glory but there's more to it," said Swick. 

For the audience, it was a great opportunity to see some of the school's most accomplished athletes on a more normal level. A reminder that Christina Marinacci and Marqise Lee are, at the end of the day, just college students too. 

3-Points: USC 89, No. 11 Arizona 78

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The Trojans knock off a ranked team for the first time in two years leading to the students storming the court.

Click here for the game recap and final stats.

The Response

Galen-Court-Storm.jpgThe Trojans laid an egg on Sunday against UCLA, but tonight, they proved that loss was an aberration and returned to the basketball that netted them four consecutive conference wins this month.  "We were obviously disappointed with the previous game," said interim head coach Bob Cantu.  "For us to be able to come back and rebound this way is tremendous."  USC had redemption and revenge on its mind.  This same Arizona team beat the Trojans by 24 in Tucson.  How did they make a 35 point turnaround?  "When you find out let me know," said senior Eric Wise.  "It doesn't make any sense."

Rhythmic Basketball

"Tonight was our night," said Bob Cantu about his team's incredible shooting touch.  The Trojans made 33/54 (61%) from the field, 6/10 from three and 17/21 from the free throw line.  The scoring was balanced throughout the lineup with five different Trojans in double figures.  "That's how I envision the team eventually playing."  The biggest difference was a no-hesitation, fast-paced approach which led to high percentage looks and confident strokes.  "Everybody was just ready to play today, just ready to catch and shoot," said Wise.

The Run Stopper

Cantu called Arizona a Final Four caliber team, so he was not surprised that the Wildcats made several runs at the Trojans after falling behind by double-digits.  USC had the answer at every turn, and in most cases, Eric Wise delivered the clutch bucket.  "Every time they came back at us, we responded with a basket.  I thought E. Wise was tremendous," said Cantu.  Wise finished with 22 points to break out of a prolonged shooting slump.  "I had a lot of fun today," he said.  "I finally got my shots to start falling."

And 1...

Rim Protectors

Omar Oraby set the tone defensively with five blocks despite foul trouble limiting his effort to 18 minutes.  Dewayne Dedmon played only 10 minutes, but he added three blocks.  The Trojans trio of seven-footers, including James Blasczyk, challenged every shot and forced Arizona to the perimeter.  "That size and length makes the biggest difference in the world," said Cantu.

State of Troy: February

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Each month, we interview Pat Haden to discuss the hot topics around USC Athletics.

Can you take us through your decision-making process in regards to making major coaching or staff changes?

Haden-Baseball-Dugout-PC.jpegIt is not the fun part of the job to relieve people of their duties.  It is not just them.  They have a family with kids that need to be pulled out of school, and they have to find new jobs.  However, it is part of the job, and I have to do what is best for the USC Athletic Department.  I am not afraid to make those tough decisions, but I take no pleasure in it.  Secondly, every decision I make to retain a coach or to let one go is thoughtful.  I perfectly understand that people disagree with some of my decisions, but I can promise fans that each decision is made with a great deal of thought for both the short term and long term ramifications for the department.  Furthermore, in the legal profession, we call them "facts not in evidence," but there are things that I know that we cannot share with fans, but they factor into the decision-making process.  

On the other side, what do you think of the new additions to the football coaching staff?

With football, we all stood back, including Lane Kiffin, and said, "Clearly, this season was a disappointment and we need to make some changes."  We wanted to bring in a defensive coordinator with a different style that fit our personnel and someone with Pac-12 experience.  We found that in Clancy Pendergast.  It is going to be an aggressive defense, and I am very happy with the change.  We also added offensive line coach Mike Summers, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler who bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to our sideline.

Click here for more on the new assistant coaches.

What is your assessment of Bob Cantu as interim head coach and the improvement made by the men's basketball team?

Cantu1-Cal-McG.jpgUnfortunately, we are coming off two tough losses after a four-game winning streak.  We are in the search for a new basketball coach and Bob is certainly going to be given a chance to win that job.  First and foremost, I have been so impressed with how selflessly he has handled this situation.  He is still out there recruiting for next year's class.  He is not looking to get his next job.  He is focused on our guys and winning with this team.  On the court, it is just a lot more fun to watch.  He has taken the shackles off the team.  The guys are having more fun playing, and it looks like the fans are having more fun watching.  It is a faster paced brand of basketball, which is the style we want to have here in the future.

What are your expectations for Dan Hubbs and the baseball program?

Baseball is a conundrum.  It is the most difficult sport at USC to balance the high expectations as 12-time national champions with the scholarship limits and private school tuition costs for walk-ons.  Having said that, we need to vastly improve.  Dan is an experienced coach and he knows USC.  Hopefully, he can help us build around this young, talented pitching staff.  We need to fix baseball in the long term. 

What is the latest update on the Coliseum takeover?

It has gone slower than we anticipated.  If we get control by next season, we will dress it up as best as we can, but our longer term goal is to make it the best venue for our fans and players.

Shined and Polished

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USC Spring Football begins in less than a week (Tuesday, March 5).  As always, we'll have blanket coverage including practice reports, features on the spring storylines and the return of our documentary series "Project Trojan."

Also, follow USC_Athletics on Instagram for behind-the-scenes photos like this one of the helmets polished and ready to go.

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Photo Gallery: Baseball Blast

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Following Kyle Twomey's complete game on Sunday, USC freshman starter Brent Wheatley picked up his first victory Tuesday night by tossing 6.1 innings and giving up only one run.  Wheatley was supported by sophomore Dante Flores who belted his first home run of the season and finished 3/4 on the game.

USC baseball hits the road this weekend for a three-game trip to Fresno State.  Here are all the photos of the 4-1 victory over Long Beach State courtesy of John McGillen...


Sideline Tennant

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Former USC women's volleyball player Kelli Tennant has been named the new sideline reporter covering the Los Angeles Galaxy on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.  Since jumping into broadcasting, Tennant has worked for Fox Sports, Pac-12 Networks and MSG Varsity.

Click here for the full story.

Tennant with Galaxy great Cobi Jones.
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Dante Goes Deep

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USC baseball is off to a 5-3 start thanks to strong pitching and defense, but the Trojans got a big blast from Dante Flores last night to key a 4-1 win over Long Beach State.

Here are the highlights:


The Haden Shake

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Yeah, you've seen more than a few Harlem Shake videos by now, but have you seen any athletic directors lead the charge???  At the last men's basketball game, USC AD Pat Haden was good enough to put on the infamous Nike prototype helmet and spark the flash mob.

Here is the official USC Athletics Harlem Shake video:


Daily Double

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USC men's and women's golf secured team titles today at their respective tournaments.  The No. 1 Women of Troy defeated UCLA in a playoff to decide the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate in New Orleans, while the No. 8 Trojans paced the field at the North Ranch Intercollegiate in Westlake Village.

Click here for the women's recap.

Click here for the men's recap.

On the men's side, freshman Yi Keun Chang was also crowned the individual champion shooting 2-under for the three round tournament.  Individually, the women's team was led by Sophia Popov who holed a seven-foot birdie putt to secure the victory over the Bruins.

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Closing the Combine

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USC alums were busy on the final day of the 2013 NFL Combine as three Trojans were among the group of defensive backs. 

Captain T.J. McDonald led the way with a strong workout including top 10 finishes among safeties in the bench press, vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle.  He ran a solid 4.59 40-yard dash and measured in at 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds.

Nickell Robey was the fastest Trojan on the day at 4.53 in the 40.  He has a 37.5 inch vertical leap and stands at 5-foot-7.

Jawanza Starling ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, but he was a top performer in the three-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle.

All the Trojans will have another chance to show off their skills at USC Pro Day on March 27.  The event will be closed to the public, but we'll provide coverage and video.

McDonald showed off his 40-inch vertical leap at the Sun Bowl.
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Spring Football Practice Info

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USC football has released dates and times for its 15 spring practices culminating in the annual Spring Game at the Coliseum on April 13 at 1 p.m. PT.  The weekday practices on campus have been moved to 4 p.m., and eight of them will be available for public viewing from Dedeaux Field.

Click here for Spring Game tickets!

The 15 dates are as follows: March 5-7-9-12-14-16-26-28-30 and April 2-4-6-9-11-13. All weekday practices will be held on campus, while the Coliseum will host Saturday practices on March 9 (2 p.m.), March 16 (9 a.m.), March 30 (11 a.m.) and April 6 (11 a.m.).  All dates/times/locations are subject to change.

Per NCAA sanctions, the public is not allowed inside the practice facility.  However, the first 200 fans to arrive each day can take in weekday on-campus practices on March 5-7-14-26-28 and April 4-9-11 from Dedeaux Deck and Prior Plaza at Dedeaux Field.  The viewing public will not be permitted to take video or still photography, or come down onto the football practice field before, during or after practice.

All are welcome to attend the Spring Game at the Coliseum.  Tickets are $10 for adults and kids get in FREE. 

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Martin Named CSUN AD

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Former USC men's basketball captain and athletics administrator Brandon Martin was introduced as the new athletic director at Cal State Northridge.

Click here for the full story from the LA Daily News.

"I'm so happy to come back to the Valley where all my dreams started," said Martin, who went to Cleveland High School in Reseda. "This is an opportunity to make history."

Martin__csun_ad.JPG(Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

Twomey Two Wins

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USC baseball is 2-0 on Sundays this season thanks to true freshman ace Kyle Twomey.  While he picked up a no-decision in the win over Nebraska last week, the southpaw earned his first collegiate victory by going the distance in the series clincher over Cal State Northridge.

Twomey is a lightweight at 6-foot-3 165 pounds, but he had enough endurance to throw all 9 innings on 117 pitches.  He gave up two runs on five hits and struck out five to only three walks.

The Trojans are now 4-3 on the season with Long Beach State coming to Dedeaux Field Tuesday at 6 p.m. PT followed by a three-game series at Fresno State this weekend.

Here is fellow lefty Randy Flores on Twomey's performance:


Taking the Top Spot

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On a busy weekend for USC athletics, women's water polo stole the show by knocking off No. 3 UCLA and No. 1 Stanford en route to winning the UCI Invitational Championship.  When the new poll comes out, Jovan Vavic will likely have another national No. 1 ranking thanks to a perfect 12-0 start to the season.

Click here for the recap.

In both the semifinals and finals, the Women of Troy were paced offensively by freshman Anni Espar who scored seven times against the Bruins and Cardinal combined.  In a match-up of Olympic freshmen in the final, Espar outshone Stanford's Maggie Steffens as the Trojans broke open an 8-8 tie to win 13-10.

Espar's Spain lost to Steffens' USA in the Gold Medal Match at London 2012.
Anni-Espar-Reuters.jpg(Photo via Reuters)



Lacrosse Hits First Winning Streak

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USC women's lacrosse is already exceeding expectations in its inaugural season. 

The Women of Troy competed hard against national powers Northwestern and UMass before picking up back-to-back wins over Presbyterian and St. Mary's.  The latest triumph over the Gaels was the program's first conference victory.

Now at 2-2 on the young season, USC hits the road for the first time with a four-game swing through LIU Brooklyn, Princeton, UC Davis and Stanford.  Here are the highlights from Sunday's win...


Combine Updates

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The Trojans saw a mixed bag of results this weekend in Indianapolis as they audition for NFL jobs. 

Robert Woods was the early star running a solid 4.51 40-yard dash, and looking smooth and polished going through the wide receiver drills.  He projects as a late first or early second round pick.

Click here for all his NFL Combine results.

Matt Barkley was limited to interviews due to his injury, but unfortunately, he was joined on the sideline by Khaled Holmes, who hurt a pectoral muscle during the bench press.  Defensive backs T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey and Jawanza Starling have yet to workout, but they projected confidence in their media interviews.

Click here to watch a portion of McDonald's presser.

Woods-Combine-Lev.jpg(Photo of Woods by Michael Lev)

WE PLAY THE OSCARS

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We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to recognize two Trojans who succeeded at the highest level of a different type of competition. 

Congratulations to Argo producer Grant Heslov and writer Chris Terrio for securing two more golden statues for USC.  Terrio's achievement is truly remarkable given that Argo was his first produced full length feature script. 

Heslov (center) accepts the Best Picture award with Terrio behind him.
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Photo Gallery: Hoops Rivalry Loss

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USC and UCLA split the season series in men's basketball with the Trojans openly hoping for a rivalry decider at the Pac-12 Tournament.  Nevertheless, the scene was energetic at Galen Center, including a Harlem Shake flash mob starring Athletic Director Pat Haden, associate AD J.K. McKay and two-sport athlete Zach Banner.

Here are the photos by John McGillen of the entertainment on and off the court:


Photo Gallery: Men's Tennis Upset

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USC and UCLA men's tennis have already played twice this season.  On both occasions, the tie came down to the final match, and the final match was decided by a third set tiebreaker.

At the ITA National Team Indoors, Roberto Quiroz clinched the victory for the Trojans, but this past Friday at Marks Stadium, Emilio Gomez was nipped at the end by his UCLA opponent.  The two teams could meet three more times this season, so the rivalry drama is just getting started.

Here were the photos from the most recent dual match by John McGillen:


3-Points: UCLA 75, USC 59

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The crosstown rivals split the season series as the Bruins dominated this one from start to finish.

Click here for the final stats and recap.

Harlem Shook

Students-Basketball-UCLA.JPGThe scene was set.  A raucous student section, including Athletic Director Pat Haden and associate AD J.K. McKay, executed a Harlem Shake flash mob.  The biggest Galen Center crowd of the season wanted something to cheer about, but the Trojans fell behind 7-0 immediately, and never really recovered.  "We dug ourselves a hole early," said J.T. Terrell, who led the team with 17 points.  "Some turnovers, some easy missed shots, I think that really made a difference in the first half."  In all, the Trojans turned it over 17 times and only made 35% of their shots, so the early problems were a portend of things to come.  "From that point, it was just tough to battle out of that.  It just got away from us early," said interim head coach Bob Cantu.

More Omar

Omar Oraby has seen his role shrink in conference play as Cantu has preferred smaller lineups to combat the undersized big men of the Pac-12.  Today though, Oraby made his smaller opponents pay on the other end scoring 11 points on 5/6 shooting in only 12 minutes.  Again though, the early deficit was the biggest factor as USC was forced to chase the game including implementing a full court press, which does not play to Oraby's strengths.  "Omar was tremendous offensively," said Cantu.  "We were trying to go with a quicker lineup defensively because we were down."

Quick Turnaround

The Trojans have no time to lick their wounds.  Suddenly, the four-game winning streak has been replaced by back-to-back tough losses, and now a Wednesday night home game against No. 12 Arizona.  "It's basketball.  It's highs and lows.  You can't get too high and you can't get too low," said Cantu who expects the team to bounce back.  The Trojans are looking for a measure of redemption against the Wildcats after being blown out by 24 in Tucson.

Kiffin Staffing Up

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The USC football coaching staff has officially made three additions: Offensive line and running game coordinator Mike Summers, running backs and passing game coordinator Tommie Robinson and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler.  In addition, quarterbacks coach Clay Helton has been named the offensive coordinator, while special teams coach John Baxter will add tight ends to his duties and James Cregg will continue to assist with the offensive line.

summers.jpg"I am excited to have completed the reconstruction of our staff," said head coach Lane Kiffin.  "It was a very exhaustive and thorough process.  Mike Summers, Tommie Robinson and Mike Ekeler bring extensive coaching backgrounds to the Trojan program.  They all are looking forward to start working with our players immediately."

In terms of background, Summers (pictured top) is the veteran of the new trio with 32 years as a college coach under his belt.  Most recently, he was the offensive line coach at Kentucky for three seasons, but he has worked the sideline for the Atlanta Falcons, Louisville (2003-06) and Arkansas (2008-09) among others.

"Mike Summers has been an integral part of many high-powered offenses, including one that led the nation in scoring and total offense and others that ranked very high in the various offensive categories.  I was particularly impressed by how highly regarded he is by fellow coaches and by the players he has coached," said Kiffin.

Robinson (pictured bottom) joins USC after coaching running backs for the Arizona Cardinals the last three seasons.  He spent three years at the University of Miami (2007-09) and four at Memphis (2002-05) before that.

mike-ekeler-21.jpg"Tommie Robinson is a veteran who not only is an effective coach and teacher, but he is known for developing great relationships with his running backs.  I know he will do that here and hold our players accountable on and off the field," said Kiffin.

On the defensive side, Ekeler (pictured middle) brings extensive knowledge gained at prestigious programs such as Oklahoma, LSU and Nebraska.  He was Indiana's co-defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

"I have followed Mike Ekeler's career and have been very impressed with what he has accomplished on and off the field," said Kiffin.  "The fact that he is the only player that Bill Snyder ever personally appointed as a team captain at Kansas State speaks to who Mike is and what he is all about.  He will bring intensity, energy and command to our linebacker group.  He also is a proven recruiter on the national level."

As for the shuffle on the current staff, the head coach stressed the importance of developing this young offensive line, which will now be aided by having two dedicated coaches in Summers and Cregg. 

"With so many young offensive linemen who will be so important to our success, I felt it was critical to have two coaches working with this group," said Kiffin.  "It was a natural step to have John Baxter work with the tight ends because he has coached that position for much of his career.  Clay Helton has been vitally involved in our offense in his time here and spent last season as the passing game coordinator."

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Second Chance Kids: Take Two

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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the men's basketball team aptly nicknamed themselves the 'second chance kids.' The roster was filled with transfers, all looking for another shot to play Division-1 hoops. Fresh off the previous season's 6-26 record and picked to finish ninth in the conference, it seemed highly unrealistic that the Trojans would be where they are now, in the middle of the 'Pac.'

Terrell-Team-Cal-McG.jpgThe Trojans were faced with the daunting task of assimilating the numerous transfers into the USC playing style in addition to the return of point guard Jio Fontan from a knee injury. After a slow start in non-conference play, the Trojans gained momentum with an overtime victory over Dayton and headed into Pac-12 play with a new sense of confidence.

"It was not only the timing of getting to know each other, it was also getting to know each other's roles," said senior captain Jio Fontan. "All of us came into this season saying that we were willing to give up certain things to better the team. Guys have learned their roles and have learned what can help our team out and what can hurt our team."

The 'second chance kids' received the ultimate second chance when assistant coach Bob Cantu took over as head coach mid-season. Under Cantu, the Trojans are 5-4 and recently boasted a four-game win streak.

USC has a new spark which is evident in how the team has played in practice and in games throughout the past month. "I think it is a completely different team with the new environment," said junior J.T. Terrell. "Coach Cantu is a little more down to earth. He allows us to have fun when fun is needed but there are times when we need to lock in, focus and take practice seriously."

The players have settled into their respective roles and exude a much needed confidence heading into the remaining games of the regular season. "Early in the season, it was just so new for everybody that it would take time to put things together," said interim head coach Bob Cantu. "Now everybody is a little bit more comfortable in their role. We have a lot of seniors and upperclassmen on the team so this is not just a second chance but it's the last chance being that time is ticking and we only have a handful of games left."

Princess of the Beach

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Going into the program's second season at USC, women's sand volleyball head coach Anna Biller Collier has secured the top signature in the sport with 2013-14 signee Sara Hughes, who has committed to the beach over indoor.  The Mater Dei product is the cover girl for the most recent issue of Volleyball Magazine after being named Orange County Player of the Year.

At only 17, she has already finished fourth in the 2012 FIVB Junior World Championship and seventh in the NORCECA tour stop in Chula Vista with future USC teammate Kirby Burnham.  Standing 5-foot-11, Hughes is considered undersized for indoor volleyball, so she will focus exclusively on the sand.

"Sara is regarded as the top sand volleyball recruit in the nation," said Collier. "She is very experienced and athletic for her age. She will be the foundation of our program in the coming years."

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Barkley at the Combine

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Matt Barkley has arrived in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine at which he will not throw but plans to impress the league's coaches and personnel staff during the interview process.  As always, he was forthcoming in his press conference today answering questions ranging from Manti Te'o to his injured AC joint and the past season's disappointments at USC.

Click here for a video portion of his presser.

Barkley officially weighed in at 227 pounds and measured at 6-foot-2.5.  He stated clearly that he believes he is the best quarterback in this draft and plans on starting from day one.

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Amazing Grace

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Always a huge supporter of the Spirit of Troy, including having the Trojan Marching Band play at Lakers games, Jerry Buss was given a fitting musical farewell at his memorial service yesterday with the band's rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Click here to watch the performance.

Buss-Band-Memorial.jpg(Photo via Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

The Answers

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The USC men's tennis team will face UCLA tomorrow (Marks Stadium at 3 p.m.) for the second time in one week. Coach Peter Smith knows this season marks the turning of an era but he also thinks his team is prepared to rise to the challenge. 

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The departure of Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen created a huge void for the USC men's tennis team at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. How do you replace a player with back-to-back NCAA Singles Championships and 72 consecutive singles victories? How do you replace a duo who helped contribute to four NCAA Team Championships? These questions followed the team into last weekend's ITA National Indoor Championships, where they lost in the title match to No. 1 Virginia. 

"I think everybody had that question mark about us. The public had that question mark, our opponents had it. I think, even though it wasn't talked about in our locker room, that question was there. Last weekend we answered it," says head coach Peter Smith. 

Smith says the most important goal through the beginning of this season has been finding an identity as a team. He knows the group is still in transition but he's impressed with the way the entire team has stepped up in the absence of Johnson and Nguyen. 

"It was a total end of an era. But the entire team has really stepped up. Even though we've had a lot of success this year, we are still figuring things out. And to do as well as we did, it's great," Smith said. 


Photogenic

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Perhaps no sport lends itself better to photography than diving.  Thanks to gravity and athleticism, a diver's intricate movements are almost too fast for the naked eye, but the shutter speed of the camera captures them in suspended moments of grace and beauty.

Click here for a John McGillen photo gallery of swimming and diving shots from the Women of Troy's win over UCLA.

As an example, behold USC sophomore Jordan Gear, who was the team's top diver last season.  The aspiring filmmaker is an accomplished all-around Trojan with a 3.82 GPA pursuing a double major in French and Critical Studies (School of Cinematic Arts).

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Stanley Kicks It With YouTube Sensation

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Written by Caroline Stanley, USC Women's Soccer Sophomore

Back in January, I checked my Facebook to see a friend posted a VIDEO ON MY WALL. It was titled "Girl Football Wonder" and my friend wrote to me, "Hey look, I found your childhood game film." I was so confused at first. Until I watched the video.

Stanley-Soccer-Sam-Gordon.jpegThis tiny 9-year-old girl, swallowed up in her football uniform and pads, snags the handoff and cuts left. then jukes right and dashes down the field, out-running every single boy by a mile. I was astonished! And jealous! I always wanted to play football growing up. My father was a collegiate football player and I was raised watching and adoring football. I obsessed over this video, re-watching it and all the different video of her from "Sam takes a hit" to "Sam's 35th touchdown". I couldn't believe what I was seeing!

I knew I had to meet this girl! Finding out Sam played soccer was icing on the cake. Sam and I linked up on Twitter and her father called me and we talked a few times then discussed a meet and greet! Sam was going to come out to LA for the Cartoon Hall of Fame Awards and had some free time. So her dad asked if I wanted to hang out with her for the day. My response was, "Of course!"

Sam had done a ton of interviews and long days of photo shoots so I wanted to make sure she had a day of fun! My teammates were SO stoked to find out Sam was coming to play with us. She arrived on campus and I instantly felt like I was looking at myself 10 years ago. We skipped off to the McKay Center and met up with my teammates. We all walked her around and showed her what it's like to be at the world's greatest school.

We walked her through the day of an athlete and she was so intrigued. Her favorite part was our underwater treadmill, and she was so bummed she didn't have her swimsuit! Then we headed outside and played a small game of soccer and watched as she sprinted around us without any hesitation or any sign of intimidation despite us being a decade older than this little girl. 

In the run of play she yelled at a senior teammate of mine, "You're being lazy!" and that's when I knew Sam was my mini-me! She suggested we play a game of two-hand touch football next. That of course got a little too competitive but was a blast.

It was such a joy seeing this child running around with such athleticism and having the time of her life. Sam then wanted some SC gear so I went with her family to the bookstore as we goofed around trying on silly glasses and playing with teddy bears. Sam racked up a nice bills worth of SC gear, but her dad knew she fell in love with the school that day and it was worth it. We ended the day with pizza and smiles as I taught her the "Fight On" sign. Sam and I hugged each other and promised we'd write and always stay in touch.

It was an amazing day for Sam, her family, for me, and for my teammates. Not only did I make a new lifelong friend, but she reminded me of the reason why I do what I do. At one point, I was that goofy, overly energetic kid who couldn't wait to get on the field and play the sport I love. That is something that few people get the opportunity to do, and should never be taken for granted for one minute. Sam reminded me of that and that is an experience I will hold dear to my heart and never forget.

Keep Winning

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USC men's basketball had its four-game winning streak snapped at Cal, but the Trojans are still one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12.  The good times started rolling when USC beat UCLA at new Pauley Pavilion, and now the Trojans are hoping to recapture their momentum with a win in Sunday's rematch.

Here's a look at the epic showdown ahead featuring Jio Fontan and J.T. Terrell...


No Longer 70 and Sunny

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Palmer-and-Ezarik.jpgThe peristyle end of the Coliseum is one of the most iconic backdrops in college football.  However, the temperature gauge has become a bit of a running joke for Trojan fans since the thermometer has pointed to 70 degrees for years now.

Well, USC engineering students Charles Palmer, Ryan Magruder, David Cape and Andrew Ezarik decided to do something about it.  Inspired by their senior project for the Viterbi School's Department of Mechanical Engineering, the group went to work on a project that would become their Trojan legacy.

Click here for the full story from USC News reporter Tiffanie Lee.

"I thought it'd be really cool to end my senior project with fixing the place I spent most of my Saturdays," said David Cape, who was a member of the Trojan Marching Band.

(Photo of Palmer and Ezarik by Ebony Bailey)

The Missing Piece

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USC women's tennis started the season with a three-headed monster at the top of the lineup, but Zoe Scandalis, who burst on the scene playing No. 1 singles as a freshman last year, has been slowed most of this campaign by injury.  Scandalis has been limited to three singles matches (2-1 record) and five doubles matches (2-3 record) on the young season.

The sophomore was rested yesterday in the 7-0 win over San Diego State.  The Women of Troy still boast two of the top three singles players in the country in No. 1 Sabrina Santamaria and No. 3 Danielle Lao, but they are a true national title contender with Scandalis backing them up and lengthening the lineup.

The Trojans are next in action Saturday at Cal.  Here are yesterday's highlights:


Coach O Part II

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If you missed the first part of our interview with Ed Orgeron, click here to see his thoughts on the recruiting class and his commitment to USC.

In part two, Coach O talks about working with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and addresses the negativity around the program.


Photo Gallery: Women's Hoops vs. UCLA

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The Women of Troy fell to the Bruins last night in the first of two rivalry meetings this week.  USC and UCLA will battle again on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA has squared rivalry week at 2-2 with men's tennis coming on Friday and men's basketball on Sunday.  Here's what last night looked like courtesy of John McGillen...


Raveling Earns Hall's Lifetime Achievement

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Outside of enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award is the Hall of Fame's most prestigious annual honor.  As part of this year's ceremony, former USC men's basketball coach George Raveling will receive the Bunn Award for the impact he has made on the basketball world.

"George Raveling is one of the true pioneers of college basketball, his impact as a coach and mentor makes him a perfect recipient of this year's John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award," said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. "Through his undoubted love for the game of basketball, Coach has positively influenced the lives of so many of his players and coaches. He is certainly deserving of this great honor."

Click here for the full story.

Outside of his tremendous record as a coach at several different stops, Raveling's career was socially significant.  He was the first ever African-American head coach in the ACC and the Pac-8 (now Pac-12). 

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Dream Golf Foursomes

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Have you ever played the game where you pick your dream dinner companions dead or alive?  Well, golfers play the same game except with foursomes.

For the USC women's golf website bios, the Trojans were asked if they could play with any three people, who would they be?  As you can imagine, the answers were as diverse as the talents on Andrea Gaston's top-ranked team.

Freshman Kyung Kim went the route of great athletes naming Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer.  On the other side of the spectrum, freshman Kim Santiago chose Claude Debussy, Leon Trotsky and Pi Patel.  Feel free to Google those names...

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 men's golf coaches were challenged with naming the one president with which they would love to golf.  USC head coach Chris Zambri went with Ronald Reagan

Who would be your dream golf foursome?  As for president, we're taking Abraham Lincoln or absent that, Daniel Day-Lewis.

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Photo Gallery: Baseball Walk-Off

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USC baseball is 1-2 after the opening weekend with a dramatic walk-off victory in Sunday's home opener.  The Trojans play Loyola Marymount tonight at Dedeaux Field with first pitch at 6 p.m.

Here are the photos of the first win of the season via John McGillen featuring freshman starter Kyle Twomey...


Coach O Part I

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In part one of our two-part interview with Ed Orgeron, the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator discussed the class of 2013 and reaffirmed his commitment to Troy.

"I'm a Trojan and I'm not wavering from that," he stated clearly.  Part two tomorrow on working with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast...


Final Bow for Marinacci

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As the lone senior on the USC women's basketball team, Christina Marinacci was hoping for bigger things this season for herself and her team.  Unfortunately, the captain has been limited to only 17 games played due to injury, while the Women of Troy have mostly struggled in her absence.

Nevertheless, Marinacci has had a solid all-around career at Troy including Pac-12 honorable mentions for hoops and academics as a junior.  She will be celebrated before her final home game tonight against UCLA (tip time at 8 p.m.) as part of the Senior Night ceremony.

USC and UCLA will actually play each other twice this rivalry week.  After meeting at Galen Center tonight, the crosstown foes will switch the scene to Westwood on Sunday at 2 p.m.


Stevens Academic Center Spotlight: Ceilidh Meagher

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond, and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week, we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our student-athlete spotlight. 

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Name: Ceilidh (Pronounced "Kaley") Meagher               
Year: Junior
Sport: Women's Lacrosse
Position: Midfield
Major: Economics 
GPA: 3.83

Sarah Bergstrom (SB): Okay, I have to ask, is there a story behind your name?

Ceilidh Meagher (CM): It's Gaelic for "party". (laughs) I think my parents just wanted to mix it up and embrace our heritage with the middle child. 

SB: Has that been a repetitive stumbling block with announcers at your games?

CM: I listen, every roll call getting to the M's, and eventually I know my name's coming. There's always a pause and I just think, 'It's (pronounced) Kaley. Kaley Marr. Looks like Ceilidh Meagher but it's Kaley Marr. It's very entertaining. It doesn't really get old. 

SB: How has the transition been from the East to West coast?

CM: It's been awesome. I had originally wanted to come to USC, but they didn't have lacrosse. So when I found out they added it, I came here as soon as I could. Colby had about 1,600 people and here you have 16,000 undergrad alone. But I love it. It's good to have a solid group of friends but it's awesome to always be meeting new people. 

SB: You said you originally wanted to go to USC before they had lacrosse. What drew you to USC?

CM: Honestly it's the perfect combination because I get to do the sport that I love and go to the school that I really wanted to go to. When I first stepped on campus I didn't know anything about it, and by the time I left I couldn't get enough. I love how USC is right in the middle of LA. I love the atmosphere. That there is a balance between enjoying life and working hard.

Get in the Action

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The USC Athletics Video Department is now hiring current students who are driven, enthusiastic and have a passion for sports.  These are paid positions in which you will get experience shooting, editing and producing original video content and live broadcasts.

If you are interested, click here to email Rich Rodriguez.  Current USC students only!

Previous camera, editing or production experience is a plus, but not mandatory.  If you want to create great videos like this, the photo below is how it happened.  Join our team and get in the game!

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Running with the Walk-Off

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USC baseball earned its first victory of 2013 in dramatic fashion Sunday as the Trojans scored two runs in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Nebraska 4-3.  After a strong start by true freshman Kyle Twomey, Adam Landecker delivered the walk-off win.

Update: USC vs. Loyola Marymount has been postponed until Wednesday (February 20) at 6 p.m. PT.

Here's a first person look at the celebration:


Photo Gallery: Men's Volley vs. UCLA

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USC is now 2-1 this rivalry week after men's volleyball dropped a match to the Bruins last night.  Bill Ferguson's young team is in a rebuilding mode at 3-7 overall to start the season coming off a national championship appearance.

Click here for the match recap.

Here are the photos courtesy of John McGillen:


Photo Gallery: Women's Swimming Senior Day

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No. 1 USC women's swimming and diving finished the regular season 10-1 after beating UCLA for a sixth consecutive time.  The Women of Troy also celebrated an accomplished senior class led by Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson, who set a new pool and meet record by blowing away the field in the 1650y free.

Click here for the recap and video highlights.

The Trojans now begin their quest to a national championship with Pac-12's next on the schedule (February 27 to March 2).  Here is a look at the rivalry win courtesy of John McGillen:


Rivalry Spotlight: Tanner Jansen

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Tanner Jansen has become one of the most dominating hitters for the men's volleyball team this season. The redshirt junior leads the team with 121 kills and also has 40 digs through nine games in 2013. 

The Trojans have struggled throughout the beginning of this season and have a 3-6 record, an uncharacteristic scenario for a team which has built a storied tradition of success in recent history. USC has won four NCAA championships, with 14 NCAA Final Four appearances, and three trips to the Final Four in the last four years (including last season's loss to UC Irvine in the National Championship).

Jansen-Tanner-UCI-PC.jpgInterestingly, Coach Bill Ferguson predicted this struggle before the season started. In his preseason outlook he said, "I expect that there will be a learning curve in the first third of the season, then we'll solidify our play in the middle third and have the potential to take off in the final third."

Another factor he predicted accurately was the significant increase in the role junior Tanner Jansen would play this year. 

Jansen's contribution through the first nine games has been phenomenal. He leads the team with 121 kills and is second on the team with 40 digs. 

The opposite hitter has been a solid player for the Trojans throughout his career, but after the departure of National Player of the Year Tony Ciarelli and All-American Steven Shandrick, the team needed someone to step up and fill the void. 

"I think them leaving has definitely contributed to me stepping up this year. I've just tried to show these young guys that I still go out there and work hard every day. Some of the younger guys have really stepped up too. Micah [Christenson] has definitely taken a leadership role," said Jansen. 

In the Trojans' loss to Cal State Northridge, Jansen had a career best 24 kills. He has had 10 or more kills in six games this season, but four of those games were losses. When asked if it was hard to manage individual success paralleling team struggles, Jansen emphasized that the interests of the team are always more important than his own statistics. 

"It can be hard to manage just when you know you're giving your all and we still lose. But I'm not focused on my individual statistics or success. I'm focused on our team."

The junior says he has seen glimpses of the potential that lies in this year's squad. "I think our two big victories, against Stanford and UCI, really were where all the pieces came together. Those games looked like the team we are supposed to be."

He also thinks tonight could be the turning point for the rest of the season. "I think this could definitely be a momentum changer for us. We have started to see things fall into place and the game (against UCLA) would be a good opportunity for us to turn it around for the season."

The Trojans have been victorious in six of the last seven meetings with the Bruins. They are a slight underdog in tonight's game, ranked #10 to UCLA's #7 ranking. However, Jansen feels they are prepared.

"This rivalry has meant a lot to me while I've been here. I think we are definitely ready to meet the challenge. We try to treat it as just another game, we prepare the way we would for any other match. But in the back of our minds, we know it's UCLA and it's a rivalry."

USC faces off against UCLA at 8 P.M. tonight at the Galen Center. 

Remembering Dr. Buss

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While he was best known as the 10-time NBA champion owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dr. Jerry Buss will also be remembered as an exemplary all-around Trojan who was a proud supporter of USC athletics, especially track and field, football and basketball.  Dr. Buss died today after losing his fight with cancer.

Buss-Jerry.jpgClick here for his LA Times obituary.

As a USC student, Buss earned his doctorate in physical chemistry, and then proceeded to teach the subject at Troy.  As a proud alum, he was a fixture at Trojan athletic events, never missing a football game, and always passionate about basketball and track and field.  He also extended a permanent invitation to the Trojan Marching Band to play at Lakers game to provide a collegiate atmosphere. 

"Jerry Buss always will be remembered as one of the greatest owners in pro sports history, as well as a very bright and successful businessman," said USC Athletic Director Pat Haden.  "Those of us at USC also knew him as a great Trojan.  He had an affinity for USC and its teams dating back to his days as a student and teacher here.  He was extremely giving of his time and support for his Trojans. 

"Over the years, he was a familiar figure at many USC sporting events and he had a particular affection for Trojan football, basketball and track and field, as well as the Trojan Marching Band.  The Trojan Family will miss him dearly.  We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and to all those in Laker Nation who loved him."

UPDATED: Reaction from USC women's basketball head coach and Lakers legend Michael Cooper.

"Dr. Buss was a very special owner to me," said Cooper. "He was the most generous, kind and compassionate person and he gave something to Los Angeles at a time when it really needed a spark in the city.

"He got the Lakers involved and made them the City of Angels' team. He will forever be missed. It was so special for me to play for the best owner and for him to be the only owner I've known. He'll be cherished and remembered forever."

Out in Front

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No. 1 USC women's swimming and diving got the Trojans off to a perfect start this rivalry week with a Senior Day victory over UCLA.  The win nudges USC out in front of UCLA in the Crosstown Gauntlet standings.

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy have won six consecutive dual meets over the Bruins.  Here are the highlights featuring Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson on her final home race...


On the Board

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USC women's lacrosse earned the program's first ever win by demolishing Presbyterian 24-4 on Friday.  Ten different Trojans scored goals led by four apiece from Amanda Johansen and Caroline Cordrey.

Click here for the recap.

"I think it's really special for the girls," said head coach Lindsey Munday. "They worked really, really hard, so to see it come together today and to see us improve from last week is awesome. It's a milestone for our program, so we're excited about it."


Correcting the Daily News Story

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In regards to the story posted today in the Daily News about Lane Kiffin and Kennedy Polamalu, there are a number of inaccuracies in the reporting.

Of note, Kiffin and Polamalu DID converse several times both before and after Polamalu was released last week from his coaching duties.  The article, which cites nothing but unnamed "sources" throughout, mistakenly states that "Kiffin never called him and still hasn't spoken to him regarding his dismissal."

Furthermore, the article asserts again via unnamed "sources" that Kiffin and Polamalu had a "heated argument" two days before the Sun Bowl in El Paso.  No such exchange occurred.

At no time did the author of this story attempt to contact Lane Kiffin to verify the accuracy of these claims.

Rivalry Week

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The USC-UCLA Gauntlet standings are dead even heading into perhaps the most action packed week of the year in the Crosstown Rivalry.  Trojans and Bruins will battle five teams this week all on USC soil culminating in the men's basketball showdown on February 24 at Galen Center (12:30 p.m. tip).

USC has dominated the recent history of the rivalry winning the last five Gauntlets, but the "Battle for LA" is up for grabs in 2013, so come out and help the Trojans beat the Bruins.

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WE PLAY FOR THE CURE

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USC women's basketball will celebrate its legacy Sunday, and also work to preserve the future of the Women of Troy as they wear pink to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer.  The Trojans will hang the 1983 and 1984 championship banners in the Galen Center rafters during a halftime ceremony, and welcome back great players from both teams including head coach Linda Sharp, Paula McGee and Cheryl Miller.

Click here for more on the Legacy Game this Sunday at 2 p.m.

We invite the Trojan Family to wear pink to the game as well. 

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Jack of Two Trades

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USC junior Elizabeth Eddy has doubled down on her athletic commitments and joined the women's lacrosse team to go along with continuing to play women's soccer.  While Eddy is developing her stick skills, head coach Lindsey Munday is thrilled to incorporate her athleticism and leadership into the team.

USC women's lacrosse is hunting for the program's first win Friday against Presbyterian at McAlister Field.  The Buttermilk Truck will be there to serve those in attendance.

Here is a Trojan Spotlight on Eddy:


Hit the Ground Pitching

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Despite the announcement of Frank Cruz being terminated from his head coaching position this week, USC baseball must soldier on with Dan Hubbs at the helm and a tough weekend trio to open the 2013 season.  The Trojans will play at Cal State Fullerton tonight at 7 p.m., at CSU Baskersfield Saturday at 2 p.m., and the home opener against Nebraska on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Click here for the weekend preview.

While Hubbs will have to adjust to his managerial role, he can rely on the pitching staff he has cultivated over the last year-plus.  He will give the ball to junior Bob Wheatley for the opener, followed by sophomore Wyatt Strahan in game two and highly regarded freshman Kyle Twomey at Dedeaux Field.

Here is Hubbs with USC baseball alum and World Series winner Randy Flores previewing the opening weekend:


Silver Senior

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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

Haley Anderson, an Olympic medalist and NCAA champion, is looking to make 2013 even more special than 2012. Anderson, the senior co-captain for the women's swim team, has been on a whirlwind journey during her four years at USC. Most recently, she took home silver from the 2012 London Olympic games, which came less than five months after winning her first NCAA title for the 500y freestyle.

Anderson-Silver-London.jpg"It definitely was surreal to be there after watching it when I was younger," Anderson said. "You always have those dreams about going to the Olympics when you're young. You don't realize how close you are to the action until you are actually there."

Though Haley Anderson is no stranger to the national spotlight, competing in the Olympics was brand new territory for her.

"I have competed for the U.S. at different meets but at the Olympics it was just a completely different level. As an American swimmer, there are these high expectations set for you because we are such a dominant country in terms of swimming so it was amazing to be a part of that."

Anderson fulfilled her childhood dream of competing in the Olympic games and better yet, made history by becoming the first American swimmer to medal in the marathon swim event. She was 0.4 seconds shy of claiming gold. Despite her phenomenal performance at the London games, Anderson still remains anonymous to most students on the USC campus.

"No, I wasn't really recognized after the Olympics. I flew under the radar," Anderson said. "Swimming isn't the most highly publicized sport. It has become more popular but only a few swimmers are recognized."

USC-affiliated athletes won 25 medals at the 2012 London games, more than any other American university. Anderson was honored to be a part of this historic moment in school history. "It was cool coming back to campus because there are so many people around this campus that have done amazing things, to be recognized as one of those people is an honor," Anderson said.

Haley and company host their final regular season meet against crosstown rival, UCLA, on Saturday, a day sure to be bittersweet. "It is really exciting that it is my last match but at the same time it is sad because I can't believe it has already been four years," Anderson said. "I am excited though that our last meet is against our crosstown rival UCLA."

The Trojans are currently in good standing to possibly claim the national title and Anderson believes that this may be the year to do so. "We are definitely up there. We have gotten third the past two years," Anderson said. "It has definitely been exciting to see our progress and see our team's improvement. I think we are in reach to win a national title."

Whether or not the Trojans win the 2013 national title, Anderson will leave behind a great legacy: Olympian, All-American, and NCAA champion.

Find Hoops on the Radio

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USC men's basketball can be heard on AM 690 for the next three games (tonight at Stanford, Sunday at Cal and February 24 vs. UCLA), while the remaining four games will air on the flagship ESPN Radio 710.  The broadcast will include a complete 30-minute pregame show.

On TV, the Trojans and Cardinal will battle at 8 p.m. tonight on ESPNU.  Sunday's game versus the Bears will be televised by Fox Sports West at 7 p.m.

Here is a Pac-12 Networks preview of USC/Stanford, which is a battle for fourth place in the conference:


Cruz Terminated as Head Baseball Coach

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Pat Haden and the USC athletic department have released notice that Frank Cruz has been removed from his position as head baseball coach for knowingly violating the NCAA's CARA rules.

Here is the story:

Cruz-Railing.jpegUSC baseball head coach Frank Cruz has been terminated for knowingly violating NCAA Countable Athletically-Related Activities limitations within his program, Trojan athletic director Pat Haden announced today (Feb. 13).

Those CARA rules restrict the number of hours student-athletes can spend in activities directed by or supervised by the coaching staff.

In addition, the University has self-imposed a reduction in the number of practice session hours for the USC baseball team this season and next year.

"Adhering to all NCAA rules is paramount for each one of our coaches, student-athletes and staff members," said Haden.  "Those who knowingly break NCAA rules are subject to termination."

USC has alerted the NCAA and Pac-12 of the infraction and the University-imposed actions.

USC associate head coach Dan Hubbs, a former Trojan All-American pitcher now in his second season at Troy, has been named head coach of the USC baseball team.  The 42-year-old Hubbs previously spent 12 years as the pitching coach at California following a seven-year pitching career in the minor leagues.

"I'm confident that Dan Hubbs and his staff will lead our team to a successful season," said Haden.  "Dan is a good coach, he is highly-regarded in the baseball community and he has strong Trojan roots."

Last Thursday (Feb. 7), USC announced it had suspended Cruz from all coaching duties pending an investigation by USC Vice President for Athletic Compliance Dave Roberts and his staff to determine whether the baseball program exceeded the allowed CARA hours. 

Cruz had guided the Trojans the past two seasons, posting a 48-63 overall record.

USC begins its 2013 regular season at Cal State Fullerton this Friday (Feb. 15).

Katinka on the Cover

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Former USC All-American swimmer Katinka Hosszu is on the cover of the February issue of Swimming World.  The three-time Olympian dominated the competition at the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, earning five total medals for her native Hungary.

Meanwhile, Hosszu's former teammates will kickoff USC-UCLA rivalry week with the final dual meet of the season Saturday.  The Women of Troy's Senior Day begins at Noon.

Here is a behind-the-scenes video of Hosszu's cover shoot:


Combine Grind

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USC's NFL prospects are pushing themselves to new levels of strength, speed and flexibility as the NFL Combine (February 20-26) draws near.  Khaled Holmes, Robert Woods and T.J. McDonald are working out together at Velocity Fitness in Orange County.

KABC caught up with the Trojans in training:


The Next Knuckler

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Former USC Rose Bowl MVP John David Booty is among several quarterbacks trying to earn a spot on the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of an MLB Network reality show "The Next Knuckler" premiering tonight.  Booty's golden arm, which once was famous for tight spirals, will have to learn the no spin pitch that dances past big league hitters.

Booty will compete alongside his brother Josh, who was a quarterback at LSU.  Here is a preview:


Photo Gallery: Women's Golf in PV

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No. 1 USC women's golf ascended to the top of the leaderboard at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes.  The Women of Troy were led by junior Sophia Popov who shot a 3-under 68 to put the Trojans in a winning position ahead of Wednesday's final round.

Click here for the round recap.

Here is a look at the top ranked Trojans in action courtesy of Pierson Clair:


Nick and Newbies

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Former USC women's soccer All-American Ashley Nick, who captained the 2007 national championship team, has returned to the Women of Troy to serve as the Director of Operations.  Since leaving USC, Nick has played at the highest levels of the sport including winning the Dutch Championship and playing in the Champions League as skipper of FC Twente.

"I am very excited to have one of the greatest Trojans ever to represent this women's soccer team to be returning to the program," said head coach Ali Khosroshahin. "Not only is Ashley so bright and capable of excelling in this position, it will be so great to have someone who can mentor the team. She can really offer the ladies a great perspective on leadership and maturity, and her soccer experience is so vast as well."

The Trojans also announced the signing of five new recruits for the class of 2013.  Click here for a breakdown of the class.

Nick has been a champion at home and abroad.
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Top Guns

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USC women's tennis fell to No. 6 in the country after losing its first match of the season to North Carolina at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships last weekend, but singles stars Sabrina Santamaria and Danielle Lao moved up in the individual rankings to No. 1 and No. 3 in the country, respectively.

Santamaria and Lao have been engaged in a battle for the top spot at USC all season, which, as it turns out, is also the same discussion for the nation's best player.  Both players are undefeated in singles play this season.

The Women of Troy have the week off before hosting San Diego State on February 20.

Santamaria is also part of the nation's top ranked and unbeaten doubles team with Kaitlyn Christian.
Santamaria-Cal-McG.JPG(Photo by John McGillen)

No Match

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No. 2 USC men's tennis was supposed to get its biggest test of the young season against No. 13 Cal and No. 19 Stanford, but the Trojans breezed by both Pac-12 foes dropping just a single point in the process.  Theoretically, the competition will be raised this weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, which boasts a field featuring No. 1 Virginia and No. 3 UCLA.

Click here for tournament info.

The Trojans will open up against No. 15 Texas A&M on Friday with possible dates against the Bruins and Cavaliers looming in the semifinals and finals, respectively.  USC won the Indoor Championship last year in a dramatic final over Ohio State.

Here are some photos from the most recent defeat of Stanford courtesy of John McGillen:


Swimming on the Farm

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Led by Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month Vladimir Morozov, No. 3 USC men's swimming and diving sprinted past No. 9 Stanford to split its trip to the Bay Area after losing to No. 6 Cal.  In both dual matches, Morozov won the 50y and 100y freestyle.

Click here for the full story.

The win over Stanford marked the Trojans first defeat of the Cardinal since 2006, and first victory in Palo Alto in 16 years.

"The men came back from a disappointing loss at Cal to beat Stanford," said USC head coach Dave Salo. "I am really proud of the guys for winning with spirit and experiencing how much fun it is to beat one of the best teams in the country."

The Trojans close the regular season in Utah before Pac-12 and NCAA Championships in March.

Morozov-Free-12.jpg

Merle Norman Stadium Preview

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USC women's sand volleyball begins its second season with an alumni game on March 7, which will also mark the opening of the brand new Merle Norman Sand Volleyball Stadium on campus.  The Women of Troy will play competitive matches against Florida State and Loyola Marymount to begin the regular season on March 10.

Here is a tour of USC's new built-in beach...


Attack Mentality

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In his introductory interview below, new USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast announced that the Trojans will switch from a 4-3 defense to his 5-2, which is an aggressive version of the 3-4.  The new defense will mean slightly new positions for most of USC's front seven.

Kennard-INT-ND.jpgGiven the relative lack of depth on the defensive line, the Trojans roster makes it seem like they would not have enough players to fill the 5-2.  However, the new defense creates a spot for hybrid defensive ends and outside linebackers, which is actually a position with more than a few ready, willing and able candidates.

Just judging based on size, speed and athleticism, USC has at least five candidates that fit the mold starting with the return of senior Devon Kennard, who missed 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle.  Kennard (pictured) has already played defensive end, outside linebacker and middle linebacker during his Trojan career, but he is probably best suited for this hybrid role at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds.

Morgan Breslin was expected to start opposite Kennard in the 4-3, but his pass rushing skills can easily be converted to fit Pendergast's scheme.  NFL sack leaders like Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware play a similar role for the Packers and Cowboys.

The young guys could also make an instant impact in an attacking role.  Redshirt freshman Jabari Ruffin was moved from outside linebacker to defensive end last year, and at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he has the size to attack the line of scrimmage and the athleticism to play in space.

Finally, fall signees Quinton Powell and Michael Hutchings were scouted as outside linebackers by the recruiting services.  Both are listed at 6-foot-2 between 215 and 220 pounds.  In particular, Powell played defensive end in high school recording 25 sacks in his final two seasons combined.

Here is Pendergast explaining his system and the plan for the Trojans in 2013...


The Inaugural Weekend

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USC women's lacrosse made its long awaited debut this past weekend with home matches against No. 1 Northwestern and No. 14 UMass.  As expected, the victories went to the more experienced sides, but the young Trojans battled hard for head coach Lindsey Munday.

After scoring five goals at the Coliseum versus the defending national champions, the Women of Troy were tied at halftime with Massachusetts before losing 18-9 at McAlister Field on Sunday.  Through two games, No. 25 Caroline de Lyra leads the team with seven points (3 goals and 4 assists), while goalie Liz Shaeffer has made 30 saves already.

Here are the highlights from an entertaining opening weekend:


Photo Gallery: USC Men's Hoops vs. UW

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USC men's basketball is on its first three-game winning streak since the Trojans won four straight in February 2011.  The Trojans will look to keep the good times rolling with a two-game trip to the Bay Area this week.

Unfortunately, Ari Stewart will not be available for the next three weeks after suffering a fracture in his left thumb.  Bob Cantu anticipates playing Eric Wise more at the small forward position as well as giving some minutes to Renaldo Woolridge.

Here are the photos from Sunday night's win over the Huskies via John McGillen:


Triton Champs

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The USC women's water polo season is only a week old, but the Women of Troy have already collected their first crown of 2013.  The Trojans went 4-0 at the UCSD Triton Invitational to earn the tournament title.

Click here for the full story.

The Vavic family name continues to grow stronger as sophomore Monica Vavic scored six goals in the semis and finals combined to lead USC.

Vavic-Monica-DT-ChrisPham.jpg(Photo by Chris Pham)

Barkley Accepts Wuerffel

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As the college football player who best combined community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement this past season, Matt Barkley was given the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy.  The USC quarterback was presented with his award at a banquet this past weekend in Florida.

Click here for the full story.

Legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden and Seminole great Deion Sanders were among the distinguished guests who attended to salute Barkley. 

Barkley-Sanders-Wuerrfel.JPG(Photo by John Pankratz)

Northern Trust Open

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This Friday at famed Riviera Country Club, the Northern Trust Open will host a USC Day for the second round of its PGA tournament.  By using the special offer code TROJANS when purchasing tickets, USC fans will get access to the Riviera's new Palisades Club -- an open-air and tented-hospitality venue with patios overlooking the signature par-4 10th hole and practice range.

Click here for more information on USC Day!

The first 300 people in attendance will be provided a special "USC Day" Northern Trust Open hat and $30 of the $65 ticket will be donated back to USC Golf.

Click here for tournament info.

Riviera-10th-PC.jpg(Photo by Pierson Clair)

3-Points: USC 71, UW 60

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The Trojans are on a three-game winning streak, and moved to 6-5 in the Pac-12 just two games off the conference lead.

Click here for the final stats and recap.

Team Ball

Fontan-Cantu-Huddle-UW-McG.JPGBob Cantu played 10 different players, eight of which scored at least four points, as the Trojans put together a complete 40-minute victory leading wire-to-wire.  The atmosphere around this team and the Galen Center has completely changed in the last month.  "We're really just playing with no leash, really no limits," said junior guard J.T. Terrell, who led USC in scoring with 18 points.  "We're holding ourselves accountable more, and holding each other accountable."  The Trojan Family saluted the team with a standing ovation as the final seconds counted down. "That was a good sight to see," said Terrell, who has become a fan favorite.  "I just really like to have fun, and I would like the fans to have fun too." 

Picking Up Jio

USC did wobble a little bit coming out of the halftime break when PG Jio Fontan picked up three fouls in a four-minute span, including his fourth, which sent the team's floor general to the pine for almost 10 game minutes.  "I was a little nervous," admitted Cantu about losing Fontan.  The head coach turned to his freshman walk-on point guard Chass Bryan who stepped up by knocking down a pair of threes and dishing out two assists.  "We knew he could do the job," said Cantu.  "Those minutes that Chass gave us were so big." 

(Photo of Cantu and Fontan by John McGillen)

Free and Easy

A month ago, USC dropped a home game to Cal because the Trojans made only 8/18 free throws, which had become a glaring weakness for this team.  In this three-game win streak, USC has knocked down 41/49 from the stripe, including 14/15 tonight.  "We've been shooting a lot more in practice," said Cantu.  "Guys are playing with confidence and they are feeling good and they are stepping up to the line and making them when it counts."  Washington made only 4/14, so the +10 for the Trojans was basically the difference in the game.

And 1...

News and Notes

Ari Stewart had his hand examined after the game and will need X-rays, according to Cantu.  The Trojans head to the Bay Area for this week to play Stanford (Thursday on ESPNU at 8 p.m.) and Cal (Sunday on FSN at 7 p.m.).

RB Coach Polamalu Released

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Here is USC head coach Lane Kiffin on releasing offensive coordinator and running backs' coach Kennedy Polamalu...

"As we continue to evaluate all facets of our program, including the organization of our staff, we made the decision to go in a different direction at this coaching position.  Kennedy Polamalu is a good coach, a good person and a good Trojan.  We wish him and his family the best."

Playing for a New Era

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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

The USC women's lacrosse team opened its inaugural season Saturday against two-time defending champions Northwestern at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Freshman midfielder Amanda Johansen broke some ground by scoring the first goal in the history of the program. "It definitely, by far, is the coolest day of my life," Johansen said. She added a second goal and an assist.

"We are so appreciative of everybody that came out today and who have supported us. The administration and marketing team have put in so much time and effort to get the word out," said head coach Lindsey Munday. "I think that it is just exciting for the sport of lacrosse. Southern California is booming right now with lacrosse and we really want to be the school that girls look to and want to be at one day."

The inaugural game drew a crowd of 3,000 and was the first lacrosse game to ever be held at the Coliseum.

"It was so cool being out here because we were finally able to show what our lacrosse team has to offer," Johansen said. "We have awesome fans and they were here the whole game cheering for us"

Here are the photos courtesy of John McGillen:


At Long Last...

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USC women's lacrosse is finally ready to take its bow! 

After two years of building the program, the Women of Troy will get their first taste of NCAA action against the defending national champions Northwestern at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Coliseum.  Admission is FREE and the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a "USC Lacrosse - WE PLAY FOR A NEW ERA" t-shirt.

While the Trojans are heavy underdogs opening against the sport's power program with an inexperienced roster, head coach Lindsey Munday is focused on the competition not the hoopla.  She knows that her players need seasoning, but the U.S. national team captain wants to build USC into a national championship contender.

Here is Munday previewing her roster and the showcase match-up against her alma mater Northwestern...


El Especial

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Anni Espar has never played a game for USC, but the Barcelona native has already made a name for herself after leading Spain to the silver medal at London 2012.  As a 19-year-old, she was the second leading scorer in the Olympic tournament.

Anni-Espar-Reuters.jpgNow a true freshman at Troy, she might be just what USC needs to get over the top after losing the NCAA title match to Stanford last season. 

"She will make all our players better," head coach Jovan Vavic said of Espar. "Anni understands the game of water polo better than most players I've coached. She's a very unique player. She's tough, she works hard and she's fast."

Espar will certainly not be asked to carry the load with USC returning five All-Americans, but she proved capable of greatness at the highest level by bagging a hat trick in gold medal match.  With Espar joining a veteran core, the always bold Jovan Vavic has made it clear that this team can accomplish anything.

"We definitely have the tools and the players and we are more talented than last year," Vavic said. "This team is definitely a contender."

Click here for the complete USC women's water polo season outlook.

(Photo via Reuters)

Biletnikoff Banquet

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USC WR Marqise Lee will officially receive his Biletnikoff Award this Saturday at a ceremony in Tallahassee, FL.  The sold-out banquet begins at 4 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com from the University Center Club at Florida State University's Doak Campbell Stadium.

Click here to watch the ceremony live!

Lee became the Trojans first ever Biletnikoff Award winner after shattering Pac-12 records for catches and receiving yards in a season en route to being named the conference's offensive player of the year.  He also finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and was named a unanimous All-American.

Lee was named the Biletnikoff Award winner at the College Football Awards in Orlando.
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The Process

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Bill Ferguson is trying to mold a young USC men's volleyball team that has the proven talent to beat No. 1 UC Irvine and former No. 2 Stanford, but has also shown the inconsistency to drop four of six to start the season.  The Trojans will need to find their game soon with a busy stretch of five matches in the next 13 days starting with a road test at Long Beach State tonight.

Here is a Trojan Spotlight on USC men's volleyball working "the process" to grow into a winner...


Student-Athlete Career Fair

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Career-Fair-SAAS.JPGWritten by Ellie Doran, Stevens Academic Center

The third-annual USC Student-Athlete Career Fair took place last night in the John McKay Center on the underground turf field. More than 45 USC student-athletes attended and interacted with 15 different companies.

"It was great to see the athletic department is not only providing student-athletes with a great academic and athletic experience, but also finding way to help us look for opportunities to excel in life after college," USC women's tennis senior Danielle Lao.

The companies ranged from real estate to investment banking to sports entertainment opportunities. This athletic department career fair allowed student-athletes the opportunity to network with potential employers, gain valuable interviewing skills and seek out potential internship and full-time job opportunities before the campus-wide USC career fair takes place Thursday. The USC career fair will have over 150 different companies attending and will take place from 10am-2:30pm on Trousdale Parkway.

The USC Career Center was there as well to offer student-athletes assistance with cover letters, resume critiques and interviewing tips.

All the Right Moves

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USC men's basketball moved to 3-3 under interim head coach Bob Cantu after defeating Washington State at Galen Center last night. 

The Trojans were struggling in the second half when Cantu made an adjustment to go to a small front court with Eric Wise and Aaron Fuller.  The lineup tinker was all USC needed to hit a run and put the Cougs away.

Click here for Cantu's post-game interview on Pac-12 Networks.

Here are the highlights featuring Byron Wesley (20 points and 8 rebounds) and Jio Fontan (10 points and 11 assists)...


3-Points: USC 72, WSU 68

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The Trojans use a second half comeback to pull even in the Pac-12 at 5-5.

Click here for the game recap and final stats.

"Floor General"

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 11.15.04 PM.pngJio Fontan was supposed to be sick with the flu.  He needed an IV this week, never practiced and did not even get out of bed on Tuesday.  But when the lights came on tonight, he found the energy to play 36 minutes, dished out a USC career-high 11 assists and made 8-8 from the free throw stripe.  "He played with tremendous heart and tremendous poise," said interim head coach Bob Cantu.  Byron Wesley, who scored a season-high 20 points, made it clear that Fontan is the undisputed captain of this ship.  "Jio is our floor general," he said.  "Regardless, we're looking for Jio and he is our leader."

(Photo of Fontan by Mark Terrill/AP)

Spurtability

J.T. Terrell has a tendency to get into a funk when his shot is not falling, which led to him being buried on the bench in the first half of the season.  But since Bob Cantu has taken over, he's shown faith in Terrell through good times and bad, and the streaky scorer rewarded him again tonight.  After a scoreless first half beset with foul trouble, Terrell hit an individual 12-point burst after the break to turn around a seven-point deficit and put USC in a winning position.  "That's what he does," said Cantu.  "He's a scorer."

Going Small

USC has the luxury of three seven-footers, which is rare for an NBA team let alone a college squad.  However, the Trojans have played their best ball over the last two games with a sized down front court of Eric Wise and Aaron Fuller.  "A lot of our league is somewhat undersized, so we're having the tendency of matching up to them," said Cantu.  "Going small makes it easier for us to defend a lot of their ball screens."  Like Fontan, Fuller was not expected to contribute after his sprained ankle swelled up following the UCLA game.  He gutted out a crucial 16 minutes, including the final 11 of the game, contributing 6 points (3/3 shooting) and 7 rebounds. 

And 1...

"Be Aggressive"

Those were the halftime words of Bob Cantu after USC shot only two free throws in the first 20 minutes.  The Trojans responded by shooting a whopping 20 free throws in the second half, and they made 18-22 for the game.

Cruz Suspended Pending Investigation

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Head baseball coach Frank Cruz has been suspended pending a USC investigation to determine if his program exceeded the Countable Athletically-Related Activities (CARA) hours allowed by the NCAA.

Here is the official word from the Sports Information Department:

USC baseball head coach Frank Cruz has been suspended from his coaching duties pending an investigation by the University to determine whether excessive NCAA Countable Athletically-Related Activities occurred within his program.

NCAA bylaws restrict the number of hours student-athletes can spend in activities directed by or supervised by the coaching staff.

 "We take any potential NCAA infraction seriously," said USC Athletic Director Pat Haden.  "USC Vice President for Athletic Compliance Dave Roberts and his staff will investigate whether the baseball program exceeded the allowable CARA hours, and will do so diligently and expeditiously.  Pending the results of the investigation, we have suspended Coach Cruz from all coaching duties."

Associate head coach Dan Hubbs will serve as interim head coach in place of Cruz, who is entering his third season guiding the Trojans.

USC begins its 2013 season with an alumni game this Sunday (Feb. 10) at Dedeaux Field before playing at Cal State Fullerton next Friday (Feb. 15).

Another Successful Venture

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Jovan Vavic likes to keep busy.  When he is not leading the USC men's water polo team to national championships or embarking on another Final Four run with the Women of Troy, he is the interim head coach of the U.S. men's national team. 

With his son Nikola Vavic on the squad teaming up with USC alum Tommy Corcoran, Jovan Vavic's Team USA qualified for the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona.  Fresh off being named National Player of the Year, Nikola was the Americans leading scorer in the tournament with 10 goals and nine assists.

Click here for the full story.

The Trojans were also represented by Marko Pintaric, Jovan's longtime USC assistant, who is on the Team USA coaching staff.

(Photo by Stan Schwimer/USA Water Polo)
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The First Test

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No. 4 USC women's tennis wants to finish the job this season after making a surprise run to the 2012 Final Four, but the Women of Troy will get a better handle on where they stand after this weekend's ITA National Team Indoors in Charlottesville, VA.  The Trojans are seeded third in the elite 16-team field with a match-up against host Virginia to start things off on Friday.

Click here for the tournament website.

If USC can navigate a route to the final, top-seeded UCLA could be waiting.  The Bruins eliminated the Trojans from the NCAA Tournament last season in a national semifinal thriller, and both teams return championship caliber lineups.

Santa-Christian-P12.jpg(Photo of Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian via Pac-12)

Avoiding the Letdown

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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

The USC men's basketball team is returning to Galen Center for a pair of home games against Washington State and Washington, Thursday and Sunday respectively. The Trojans are fresh off of last week's overtime victory over crosstown rival UCLA and are looking to continue that momentum tonight against the Cougars.

UCLA-Celebration-AP.jpg"We had a great win last week over UCLA but that is over with," said guard Byron Wesley. "We have had three good days of practice this week and we feel confident and ready for these next two games."

It is undeniable that the Trojans are bursting with energy and confidence following the crucial conference win. However, the true test will be if that energy can carry over as the Trojans embark on the second half of conference play and if they can avoid becoming complacent heading into tonight's game.

"I think the UCLA game gave us confidence which is something that our team needed," said interim head coach Bob Cantu. "Any time you can win on the road in a conference game against a rival, it gives confidence. We have made practices as energetic as possible to keep the energy up so that we can be ready."

Despite a conference record of 2-7, Washington State is not an opponent that the Trojans will overlook. "At this point, we are focusing a lot more on us. We want to make a run and be one of the best teams in the conference. In order to do that, you have to win at home," said guard Jio Fontan. "They may be 2-7 in conference play, but they're always hungry for a win."

USC currently stands at 9-13 overall and 4-5 in conference play. A pair of conference wins this weekend would set the Trojans in a perfect position heading into the remainder of the regular season. "Washington State, like every team in the PAC-12, is talented. We definitely can't go in there thinking that we are going to win," Wesley said. "We need to play with confidence and play like it is a must win game for us."

(Photo by AP via Washington Post)

Here is a Pac-12.com breakdown of tonight's game vs. Wazzu (8:30 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks)...


Artletics 2013

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The 8th annual Louis Galen Artletics exhibition will be on display tonight through March 15 at the Centofante Hall of Fame in Galen Center.  If you are coming for USC basketball or men's volleyball, be sure to check out the artwork of 28 different Trojan student-athletes on display.

Click here for more on Artletics.

Here are Georgette Hernandez (women's water polo), Jeffrey Churchman (men's track and field) and Leonard Williams (football) on their work and the meaning of art in their lives...


Signing Day Celebration

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USC closed National Signing Day with an annual dinner celebration featuring six of the seven early entrants (Su'a Cravens could not attend), and legends Marcus Allen and Keyshawn Johnson.

Earlier in the day, QB Max Browne and DL Kenny Bigelow went on ESPN Radio to discuss their fellow incoming freshmen and settling in at USC.

Click here to listen to Browne on ESPNLA.

Click here to listen to Bigelow on ESPNLA.

From left: Bigelow, Browne, Johnson, Justin Davis, Chris Hawkins, Allen, Darreus Rogers and Leon McQuay III.
Key-Marcus-SigningDay13-PC.jpg

Signing Day Infographic

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USC's Signing Day is in the books for another year!  While Lane Kiffin acknowledged the possibility of signing another player, the 13 for '13 already boast the highest average star ranking per player in the history of Rivals.com.

"This is certainly a class of quality over quantity," said Kiffin.  "We could only sign a limited number of players because of our sanctions, so we went after the best of the best.  The talent in this class is second to none and so is their character."

As you can see in the infographic below, USC signed more 5-star talents than any school in the country, and more than every conference with the exception of the ACC and SEC.

Signing Day INFOGRAPHIC FINAL_00086.jpg

Signing Day Press Conference

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Lane Kiffin used a pair of metaphors to describe an up-and-down National Signing Day. 

The head coach instructed his charges to go "big game fishing" with the limited number of scholarships at USC's disposal due to the NCAA sanctions.  While the staff may not have caught as many fish as the other schools around the country, they reeled in some "big prizes," Kiffin explained.

The head coach admitted that there was not a lot of excitement or momentum around the building today, but that was due in large part to signing so many top players early, including seven spring entrants.  He compared the day to the feeling a coach gets when leading 35-0 then letting the other team come back, but eventually winning.

While you can watch the entire presser below, Kiffin was honest with his explanations in regards to the Kylie Fitts situation as well as  conceding that the 7-6 season and his resulting job status questions hurt recruiting in the last month.  However, he was bullish that the Trojans signed the most quality players in the country including several candidates to earn starting spots next season.

Here is Kiffin in the John McKay Center classroom...


Class of 2013: Nico Falah

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Falah-Sign.JPGName: Nico Falah

Position: OL

Size: 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds

Hometown (HS): Hermosa Beach, CA (St. John Bosco HS)

Rivals.com Ranking: 4-stars (No. 14 OT, No. 180 Overall)

Accolades: The U.S. Army All-American was tested against the highest level of high school competition in the Trinity League playing for St. John Bosco.  He responded by being named All-Trinity League Co-Offensive MVP.  Falah was also a MaxPreps first team All-American leading Bosco to an undefeated record in the Trinity League including wins over Mater Dei and Santa Margarita.

Click here for Nico Falah's highlight reel!

Scouting Report: The Trojans did not sign many offensive lineman in this class, but Falah is a jewel.  He has the prototypical tackle size, which puts him into the mix of an unsettled group at that position.  "What separates Nico is his athletic ability," said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro.  "All the coaches that come through want to talk about how well his feet work."  He describes himself as a nice guy off the field, but he flips a switch when the pads come on.

falah-nico-wearesc.jpg(Photo via WeAreSC.com)

Class of 2013: Khaliel Rodgers

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Rodgers-Sign.jpgName: Khaliel Rodgers

Position: OL

Size: 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds

Hometown (HS): New Castle, DE (Eastern Christian Academy)

Rivals.com Ranking: 4-stars (No. 1 OG, No. 51 Overall)

Accolades: Despite playing only an abbreviated three-game schedule as a senior at Eastern Christian Academy, Rodgers was still named a U.S. Army All-American joining his high school teammate and USC early entrant Kenny Bigelow.  He played at Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware as a junior.

Click here for Khaliel Rogers' highlight reel!

Scouting Report: Rodgers played both center and guard in high school, so he projects as an interior offensive lineman at USC.  After being undersized at guard the last two years, the Trojans have bulked up their options with Jordan Simmons and now Rodgers in back-to-back classes.  Rodgers' plan is to bring an attacking mentality to the USC offensive line.  "Hopefully, I can do anything to help the line," Rodgers told Blair Angulo of WeAreSC.com.  "I feel as a team we've got to learn to punch first."

Rodgers-Khaliel-Maggie-Thomas.jpg(Photo by Maggie Thomas/WeAreSC.com)

Class of 2013: Michael Hutchings

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Hutchings-Sign.jpgName: Michael Hutchings

Position: LB

Size: 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds

Hometown (HS): Antioch, CA (De La Salle HS)

Rivals.com Ranking: 4-stars (No. 6 OLB, No. 94 Overall)

Accolades: The U.S. Army All-American did everything at famed Concord De La Salle High School.  He played linebacker, running back and wide receiver as a senior starring on the defensive side of the ball with 113 tackles (11 for loss), 3.5 sacks and 3 interceptions.  Cal-Hi Sports' "Mr. Football" led De La Salle to a 15-0 record finishing off his high school career with three consecutive CIF Open Division state championships in his three years as a starter.

Click here for Michael Hutchings' highlight reel!

Scouting Report: The Trojans have loaded up on potential outside linebacker candidates in this recruiting class.  Hutchings admires LB Dion Bailey, and expects to slot in behind him, but he is another versatile talent who can play all over the field.  How was USC able to snare the highly-regarded Hutchings?  "Education, the coaching staff, what the school offered outside of football and the tradition," Hutchings told WeAreSC.com. "[USC] offered me every tool and everything that I wanted."

Hutchings-Michael.jpg(Photo via MaxPreps.com)

Class of 2013: Quinton Powell

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Powell-Sign.jpgName: Quinton Powell

Position: LB

Size: 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds

Hometown (HS): Deltona, FL (Mainland HS)

Rivals.com Ranking: 4-stars (No. 15 OLB, No. 190 Overall)

Accolades: The Under Armour All-American played defensive end as a senior at Mainland HS in Daytona Beach.  He had 102 tackles, 37 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 2012.  Statistically, he was even better as a junior posting 104 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 defensive touchdowns.

Click here for Quinton Powell's highlight reel!

Scouting Report: The latest Florida player to swim the pipeline to USC actually teamed up with Freshman All-American Leonard Williams in high school.  He will do so again at Troy, although likely as an outside linebacker given his athletic build at only 220 pounds.  Williams, and his success at USC, was a big influence on Powell's decision. "It just shows you that if you work hard good things can happen," Powell said about Williams to the Orlando Sentinel.  "He's in the program now and can tell me all the good things and the bad things about it.  It will definitely help."

Powell-Quinton-Chris-Hays-Orlando-Sentinel.jpg(Photo by Chris Hays/Orlando Sentinel)

Class of 2013: Steven Mitchell

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Mitchell-Sign.jpgName: Steven Mitchell

Position: WR

Size: 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds

Hometown (HS): Pasadena, CA (Bishop Alemany HS)

Rivals.com Ranking: 4-stars (No. 6 WR, No. 54 Overall)

Accolades: The U.S. Army All-American was one of southern California's top skill players in 2012.  As a senior, he had 62 receptions for 1,100 yards (17.7 avg.) with 13 TDs, plus he ran for 202 yards with 5 TDs.  He also played defensive back en route to being named the Serra League's Co-MVP.  He was equally as dominant as a junior catching 50 passes for 1,006 yards (20.1 avg.), running for 312 yards and scoring 19 TDs (11 receiving, 5 rushing, 1 kickoff return, 1 punt return and 1 interception).

Click here for Steven Mitchell's highlight reel!

Scouting Report: "Every time he touches the ball, he has a chance to go the distance," said Alemany head coach Dean Herrington to the LA Times.  Mitchell is the latest local speedster to choose USC, and you can understand why given the success of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee in recent years.  Mitchell is undersized at 5-foot-10, which brings comparisons to slot receivers like Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.

Mitchell-Steven-Ted-Aguirre.jpg(Photo by Ted Aguirre/MaxPreps.com)

Class of 2013: Ty Isaac

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The fax machine has been dusted off in the John McKay Center, so we can bring you the OFFICIAL 2013 recruiting class as the names come through.

Isaac-Sign.jpgName: Ty Isaac

Position: RB

Size: 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds

Hometown (HS): Shorewood, IL (Joliet Catholic Academy)

Rivals.com Ranking: 5-stars (No. 4 RB and No. 27 Overall)

Accolades: Despite missing some time with injuries, he ran for more than 1,500 yards (8.7 avg.) with 22 TDs and caught 12 passes for 287 yards (23.9 avg.) with 3 TDs as a senior en route to a spot in the Under Armour All-American game.  The Midwest product was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year as a junior thanks to amassing 45 rushing touchdowns, including 5 in the state championship game.

Click here for Ty Isaac's highlight reel!

Scouting Report: The Trojans never found a power running back last season once Tre Madden went down with a torn ACL in spring practice.  Now, Madden is back, and he will compete with Isaac for that role behind elusive senior Silas Redd.  Isaac knows the route to the end zone having scored a ridiculous 67 rushing touchdowns combined in his final two years as a prep.

Isaac-Ty-William-DeShazer-Tribune.jpg(Photo by William DeShazer/Tribune Photo)

#SCigningDay2013

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If you are looking for blanket coverage of USC's National Signing Day, we've got it for you on every platform.  Here's what you need to know...

Signing Day Central - USCTrojans.com will provide a dedicated page complete with player bios, highlight films and a live Twitter feed.

Follow @USC_Athletics on Twitter - We will tweet out the official announcements player-by-player once we get a signed and verified letter-of-intent.

Rips It Blog Profiles - Once a player has been officially signed and announced, we will post his bio on the blog complete with a scouting report and highlight film.

Trojan Text Alerts - If you cannot follow the action, text USCSIGN to 51234 and get the announcements sent directly to your phone as they happen.

Join the Conversation - If you want to spread the word about the newest Trojans, use #SCigningDay2013 as your Twitter hashtag.

Lane Kiffin Presser - The USC head coach will address the media at approximately 5 p.m. PT, which we will stream live.  Click here to watch.

Pac-12 Network
- The conference channel will broadcast a live show from 5-7 p.m. PT hosted by Mike Yam featuring Rick Neuheisel and Yogi Roth, including an interview with Kiffin.

Pac-12.com - The conference will have its own Signing Day Central page with wall-to-wall coverage.  Click here to visit.

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Get in the Habit

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Before USC women's lacrosse takes its official bow on Saturday at the Coliseum, you are invited to meet the Women of Troy at a burger bash on Thursday in McCarthy Quad.  From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., meet the girls and enjoy The Habit food truck.

The first 500 students get a FREE burger!  Remember, the USC women's lacrosse opener is FREE to all who want to attend this Saturday at the Coliseum starting at 3 p.m.

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Allyson Fierce

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In the newest issue of ESPN the Magazine, 14 athletes got their chance to become their favorite musicians.  USC alum Allyson Felix replaced her four Olympic gold medals with shimmering diamonds as tribute to her musical inspiration Beyonce.

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The Marks Fortress

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No USC tennis team has dropped a dual match so far this season as the No. 4 Women of Troy have matched the four-time defending national champion men's team volley for volley. 

While the competition is fierce at Marks Stadium, the support is even stronger.  Both the men's and women's teams are in the stands to cheer on the opposite program as they were in the NCAA tournament last year. 

The combination of competition and enthusiasm has created a tennis culture at USC that is currently unparalleled around the country.  Both programs are ranked in the top four, undefeated on the season and dreaming of national championship glory. 

After blowing away Fresno State (highlights below), the Women of Troy will face the biggest challenge of the non-conference schedule by traveling to Charlottesville, VA this weekend for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.


Matt vs. Lacrosse

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The countdown continues to Saturday's inaugural USC women's lacrosse game at the Coliseum.  The Women of Troy will do battle with defending national champions Northwestern starting at 3 p.m.

ADMISSION IS FREE. The first 1,000 fans will also get a complimentary USC lacrosse t-shirt.

Back in the summer of 2012, QB Matt Barkley got his first lesson in lax courtesy of USC head coach and U.S. national team captain Lindsey Munday.  Here is the newest Matt Vs....


Stevens Academic Center Spotlight: Kevin Swick

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond, and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week, we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our student-athlete spotlight.

Name: Kevin Swick                                                                        
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Year: Junior 
Sport: Baseball
Position: Infield
Major: Business Finance
GPA: 3.8

Sarah Bergstrom (SB): How much of a factor was academics in choosing to attend USC?

Kevin Swick (KS): I picked USC pretty much purely for academics. I was a walk-on my freshman year, so I came here primarily for the business school. Academics was a huge part of my decision to come here along with the fact that being a Trojan runs in my family, I'm a third generation Trojan. 

SB: I read that you are president of the USC Value Investing Group...Explain what you do with that.

KS: It goes on during the school year. We travel to different stock competitions around the country and make stock pitches to real investment firms. It's been a great thing to be a part of. A lot of people mentored me when I was a freshman and sophomore and I've learned a lot of life lessons. 

SB: Are other athletes involved?

KS: (laughs) No, I'm the only athlete. 

SB: Has it been hard to maintain success on the field and in your classes?

KS: You kind of get into a routine. Freshman year was definitely hard but you figure it out after that. You definitely learn time management. Someone told me once that you can only do three things in college. I have baseball, school, and VIG. I've definitely had to give up some of the social aspects of college but that's okay with me. I absolutely love baseball and my academics. 

SB: Speaking of balance, is it true that you played summer ball in Alaska and interned at an investment firm? How did you manage that?

KS: Yeah...I was busy. I interned at an asset management firm in Alaska called Permanent Capital Management. I would work from about 5 A.M. to 12 or 1 P.M. every day and then play baseball until it was dark. It was a lot of fun. 

SB: Has any of your business knowledge helped you in baseball? Or vice versa?

KS: I think one thing is learning that what you put into something is what you get out of it. The more time and work you put into baseball the better the results, the same goes for investing. And I've definitely learned a ton from playing baseball. I've learned how to fail. You fail so much in baseball and in investing you fail a lot too. It's helped me learn how to manage that psychologically. Baseball has taught me not to make ridiculous risks when you lose, which is important in business. 

SB: What is the best class you've taken here?

KS: Probably History of California or Valuation. 

SB: History of California? A GE? Don't you learn about that in 4th grade?

KS: Yeah (laughs) it was actually super interesting! There was this Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote a piece following the lives of this illegal immigrant family who came from Mexico. I thought it was a great class.

SB: I also read that you volunteer on Skid Row. Is volunteerism an important part of your life?

KS: Absolutely. I really enjoy giving back. One day I hope to start something in the community that teaches basic economics in elementary schools. I've recently been working in nearby elementary schools and I learned that 50% of the kids I work with won't go to high school. That's crazy! I want to do something to help change that. 

SB: What do you want your legacy to be when you leave USC?

KS: I want to be remembered as being a man for others. That I gave back to my team and helped the baseball program get back to where it used to be. And in terms of academics, I want to pay it forward. So many people helped and mentored me and I want to do the same. 

Swim Split

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No. 1 USC women's swimming and diving split its challenging weekend in the Bay Area as the Women of Troy triumphed over No. 7 Cal before falling to No. 2 Stanford.  The Trojans return home to close out the regular season with a rivalry meet against UCLA on Saturday, February 16.

Click here for more swimming news and recaps.

Meanwhile, construction (or in this case destruction) has begun at McDonald's Swim Stadium, which is being transformed into the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.  Competitions will go on at the pool as scheduled, but fan seating will be limited.

Swim-Stadium-Construction.jpg(Photo by Rich Rodriguez)

Photo Gallery: Men's Tennis vs. Texas

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They are the champs until somebody beats them.  Despite losing 4-peaters Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen, No. 2 USC men's tennis keeps rolling along.

The Trojans won five matches last week, highlighted by a sweep of No. 17 Texas.  The USC lineup features familiar champions at the top, junior captains Emilio Gomez and Ray Sarmiento, but the depth is still strong with sophomore Eric Johnson and freshman Max de Vroome moving into the singles lineup.

Here is a look at the new look Trojans topping Texas courtesy of John McGillen...


Surf and Turf

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What is better than USC Football?  USC Football as part of a Hawaiian vacation!

Come see the Trojans battle the Warriors in Honolulu to kickoff the 2013 season, and stay on Oahu to enjoy a four-night land package starting at $799 from our partners Pleasant Holidays. The vacation includes four nights accommodations, invitations to the pep rally and tailgate party, transfer to and from the airport and game, and game tickets. 

For more information or to book your trip, call 888-996-6698 or go to pleasantholidays.com

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Super Pancakes

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USC women's basketball will tip-off at 10 a.m. this Super Bowl Sunday against Colorado, so the Trojan Family has more than enough time to make it back to their couches for kickoff.  To start the morning right, the Women of Troy will host a pancake breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The buffet brunch in the Galen Center Founders' Room costs $15 per adult and $7.50 per child (6-12).  Game admission is FREE to all.

Click here to email your reservation for the pancake brunch!

The Trojans also play tonight vs. Utah at 7 p.m. 

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Throw Day

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CORRECTION: Matt Barkley has not decided whether or not he will throw at the NFL Combine.  The ESPN article linked below indicated differently.

Click here for ESPN's update on Barkley's draft process from Arash Markazi.

Barkley will throw to a familiar target, WR Robert Woods, during the scouting showcase at USC Pro Day, which is closed to the public.  He has not put on a public passing exhibition since injuring the AC joint in his right shoulder late in the UCLA game.

The quarterback also endorsed Lane Kiffin despite the 2012 season not meeting expectations.

"Two years ago, he inspired us and we had a great team," Barkley said about Kiffin to Cowherd. "Last year was a little different circumstances, but he can still bring it back to where it needs to be."

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Football Managers

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USC Football is reloading its staff of team managers, so the "Jimokes" asked us to pass along this message for any interested students.  This is the best way to get close to the program and become a valuable member of the team.

Do you love SC football? Have you ever dreamed about being a part of a championship-caliber team? Want the opportunity to work alongside players and coaches? The USC Athletic Department is looking for new student managers for the 2013-2014 football season. For more information, please click here to email Head Student Manager, Spencer Graham.

(Photo by John McGillen)
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Good Vibrations

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USC men's basketball has rallied around interim head coach Bob Cantu whose even-keeled approach has loosened up the locker room and the offense. 

Since he took over, the Trojans are averaging 72 points per game.  In the first 17 games, USC only scored 72+ points twice.

"If you mess up, instead of yelling at you, he's still giving you confidence," said sophomore Byron Wesley to Jeff Goodman.  "That's what we needed."

Click here for the entire story on USC men's basketball's transformation on CBSSports.com.

For those of you that do not have Pac-12 Networks, here is a Pac-12.com cut-up of all the drama as USC defeated UCLA at new Pauley Pavilion this week...


The Original Jumpman

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The "Jumpman" logo is synonymous with Michael Jordan and his Nike empire, but "His Airness" did not strike the pose until his rookie year in 1985.  However, Sports Illustrated's Andy Gray tweeted out this photo of USC Heisman winner Marcus Allen doing his best "Jumpman" in 1981.

Controversy?  Maybe not.  But, it is an epic 80's style living room basketball photo nevertheless...

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