USC to the NBA Playoffs

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

USC alum DeMar DeRozan is playing the best basketball of his career right now leading the Toronto Raptors to a franchise-best 49 victories as postseason play begins. The NBA recognized the guard's impressive month by naming DeRozan the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month on Friday. In the past month, DeRozan led the East in average points per game (24.1) and free throw attempts (49), while also averaging 4.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds and shooting 49.2 percent from the field. This is the first time he has received this recognition joining Kyle Lowry (December 2014) and Chris Bosh (January 2007) as the only Toronto Raptors to earn this honor. 

DeRozan finished game one with a double-double, scoring 15 points and nabbing 11 rebounds, but the Raptors dropped the series opener 93-86 against the Washington Wizards in overtime.  DeRozan and the rest of the Raptors will look to avenge the opening loss to the Wizards on Tuesday at 5:00p.m. PST. 

Taj Gibson has become an annual fixture in the NBA Playoffs for the Chicago Bulls. In 25 minutes, Gibson racked up 8 points and 11 rebounds to help the Bulls defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 103-91 in game one of the series. Gibson is a little banged up, but the coaching staff is relying on him to be a crucial, impact player as the series continues. Game two will be Monday night at 5:00p.m. PST.  

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Strong Showing at Mt. SAC

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The USC track & field program is building a case this season to prove it's one of the best in the country. The team continued to polish its resume this weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays, setting national records, besting professional racers and winning six events on the final day of the meet.

On Friday, redshirt freshman thrower Nick Ponzio won the men's shot put on his last attempt with a personal record of 63-2.25. The mark moved him into eighth on USC's all-time list, and set the tone for the Trojans' record-setting weekend.

Later, Destinee Brown and Deanna Hill took second and third in the women's 100m dash in 11.43 and 11.44, respectively, freshman Ky Westbrook finished third overall in the 200m with a time of 23.2 and Davonte Stewart placed third in the men's 200m in a time of 20.85. Also of note, Adoree' Jackson placed seventh in the men's long jump with a season-best jump of 25-00.00/7.62.

For a complete recap of the Trojans in action on Friday, click here.

For a complete recap of Saturday's impressive showing, click here.

The Trojans' 4x100m relay team of BeeJay Lee, Andre De Grasse (pictured), Just'N Thymes and Bryan Mercado, which finished as the fastest college team at the Florida Relays earlier this month, started Saturday off with a bang, winning the event in 39.98. USC became the first collegiate relay team to win the Mt. SAC Relays 4x100m race since 2002. Shortly after, the women's 4x100m relay team finished second overall with a season-best time of 43.38, moving the quartet to fifth on USC's all-time list.

As the day continued, De Grasse won both the 100m (9.87) and 200m dashes, tying the Canadian record in the 200m in 20.16 which was also good for third on USC's all-time list. Lee, the only other collegian in the event, took second in the 100m with a time of 9.96.

Representing the Women of Troy, Dior Hall set a USC freshman record, winning the 100m HH in a time of 12.89, moving her to third on the school's all-time list. Junior Jaide Stepter won the 400m IH in 56.74, sophomore Amalie Iuel finished fifth in 57.74 and freshman Kendall Ellis placed third overall in the women's 400m with a time of 52.96.

Rounding out the weekend, redshirt senior Conor McCullough won the men's hammer throw with a mark of 241-9 - the second furthest throw by an American male this year - moving him up to third on USC's all-time list.

Next up, the Trojans will compete in the Triton Invitation in La Jolla on April 24-25.

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Photo Gallery: Baseball Bests Ducks

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No. 10 USC baseball completed a solid week by taking two out of three from Oregon at Dedeaux Field to improve its record to 29-10 on the season and 10-5 in the Pac-12.

The Trojans picked up bookend wins against the Ducks, taking the opener 13-5 behind Timmy Robinson's first career grand slam. Freshman Mitch Hart was the decisive factor in Sunday's rubber match, giving up only one run in six strong innings, while striking out a career-high eight.

USC gets a rare weekday breather to prepare for a big series at Oregon State this weekend. Here are the John McGillen photos from Sunday's win over Oregon:

Photo Gallery: Sand Volley Wins Pac-12

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No. 1 USC sand volleyball enjoyed two days at the beach, winning everything that was there to be won at the Pac-12 Invitational in Santa Monica.

On Saturday, the Women of Troy won the team competition by beating Arizona State and then Arizona twice, including sweeping the Wildcats in the final. And on Sunday, Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes claimed the Pac-12 Invitational Pairs gold bracket title, while Jenna Belton and Bria Russ took home the championship in the silver bracket.

Click here for the team recap.

Click here for the pairs recap.

USC will enter the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championships with a perfect 24-0 record in search of the program's first national title. The Women of Troy await selection and seeding for the tournament, which will be held in Gulf Shores, Alabama (May 1-3).

Here are the John McGillen photos from Saturday at the Annenberg Beach House:

Photo Gallery: Men's Volley Senior Night

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No. 8 USC men's volleyball celebrated its senior class by first sweeping Cal Baptist to close the regular season at 18-8 and then giving the outgoing quintet a Galen goodbye. However, the Trojans will play one more home match when they host BYU in the MPSF quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

Nevertheless, the senior sendoff featured a range of emotions, captured beautifully by John McGillen's photography in the gallery below, as Micah Christenson, Chris Lischke, Tyler Cundiff, Cristian Rivera, and Robert Feathers were honored on court along with their families. All five Trojans played a role in the win over Cal Baptist, paced by Rivera's team-leading 13 kills and Christenson's 35 assists.

Cravens for Lott

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USC junior Su'a Cravens was the latest in the program's legacy of great safeties until he turned into a playmaking linebacker last season. Now, he is on the watch list for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, named after perhaps the greatest safety in Trojans history, looking to become the first USC player to win the award given annually since 2004 to the nation's best defensive player in terms of athletic ability and character.

Click here for the complete watch list.

Cravens made 68 tackles, including a team-leading 17 for loss, in 2014. He added 5 sacks and a team-best 3 interceptions.


Primetime in South Bend

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For the third consecutive time, USC will play under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium as the Fighting Irish announced that the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on October 17. The game will be carried live on NBC.

From 2002-09, the Trojans enjoyed their longest run of success against Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish won three of four to start the Brian Kelly era. Last year under Steve Sarkisian, USC easily reclaimed the Jeweled Shillelagh, shellacking its rival 49-14 (the second highest point total ever by a Trojan team against Notre Dame).


Set for Senior Night

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No. 8 USC men's volleyball will celebrate its seniors on Saturday night before playing Cal Baptist at 7 p.m. inside the Galen Center. At the head of the class, setter Micah Christenson will take his final bow in a regular season home game, having already inked his name among the program's all-time greats.

Click here for the preview.

Christenson, who will be honored alongside fellow seniors Chris Lischke, Cristian Rivera, Tyler Cundiff and Robert Feathers, has been a mainstay in this program since arriving on campus as a freshman from Honolulu. As the starting center from day one, he was the 2012 AVCA and Volleyball Magazine National Newcomer of the Year, directing the Trojans to the NCAA Championship Final.

From there, Christenson has been the foundational piece of a rebuilding process in the program. After earning second team honors in 2012 and 2013, he was named an AVCA and Volleyball Magazine First Team All-American in 2014 as well as the winner of the inaugural 2014 Off The Block Lloy Ball Award presented to the nation's top men's collegiate setter.

While Christenson is in line for many more individual accolades after this season, he is focused on one final postseason run with the Trojans.  USC has shown flashes this year, climbing all the way to the No. 2 ranking early in the campaign by picking up marquee wins over current No. 1 Hawaii, No. 3 Pepperdine, No. 4 UC Irvine and No. 6 BYU.

Whatever happens in the MPSF and NCAA Tournaments, the Trojan Family should soak up every last opportunity to watch Christenson in the Cardinal and Gold. After this season, the gold on Christenson's mind will be earning a championship medal for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.


No Time to Quack

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No. 10 USC baseball responded well to a tough week by defeating Pepperdine in 12 innings on Tuesday, and now the Trojans return home to face Oregon in a pivotal three-game series at Dedeaux Field. USC is tied in the loss column with UCLA and Arizona State at the top of the Pac-12 standings, so the Trojans must take care of business against the Ducks, sitting at just 4-8 in conference.


Women's Tennis Survives, Trophy Does Not

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No. 2 USC women's tennis needed an epic comeback to best the Bruins and become the conference's lone survivor as the undefeated Pac-12 champions.

Click here for USC women's tennis' "Survivor" music video!!

However, after the match, the glass conference championship trophy was not as lucky, ending up shattered in pieces on the Marks Stadium courts. The national media enjoyed the humor of it all as the Women of Troy have been featured on the front page of Yahoo! as well as other major news outlets.

Here are the John McGillen photos including some hilarious shots at the back of the gallery of the trophy mishap: