Start Your Engines

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USC women's tennis, fresh off an impressive upset of No. 4 Michigan, opens up Pac-12 play this weekend, with matches against Cal and Stanford tomorrow and Saturday.

Click here for the full preview!

The Trojans finished up their nonconference slate with a 4-3 record and a No. 21 national ranking. If they can upset No. 12 Cal and No. 14 Stanford, their ranking will surely rise.

USC has already faced Cal once this season, in a nonconference match on Feb. 25 in Berkeley. The Bears were too strong for the Trojans that time, drumming up a 6-1 win.

The Trojans hope for a better result this time. The match vs. Cal kicks off tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., while Saturday's match against Stanford begins at 2 p.m.


Setting the Tone

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While USC men's basketball just descended upon Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament, USC men's golf is leaving having left its mark on Sin City.

The No. 7 Trojans topped 14 other teams to win the 2017 Southern Highlands Collegiate at the Southern Highlands G.C. yesterday by 10 strokes.

Click here for the full recap!

It's the second year in a row USC has won the event, this time finishing at 11-under 853 (278-291-284). The win marks USC's third of the year and its fifth Top 2 finish.

Freshman Cheng Jin (pictured) enjoyed a season-best third place finish, tied with teammate Justin Suh at 5-under 211.

The Trojans now have a break until March 30, when they take on The Goodwin at Stanford.


Movin' On Up

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Last night, USC men's basketball faced Washington for the third time this season. But this time, the stakes were higher than ever before, as the two teams faced off in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Despite trailing at the half, the Trojans locked in and made their way to a 78-73 victory over the Huskies to advance to the second round of the tournament.

Click here for the full recap.

Sophomore forward Chimezie Metu led all scorers with 24 points on the night, and added 9 boards as the Trojans improved to 24-8 on the season. The sixth-seeded Trojans also got 13 points from Bennie Boatwright, 11 points from Jordan McLaughlin and 10 points form Shaqquan Aaron.

Five steals from McLaughlin, and 15 from the team overall, helped USC swing momentum in its favor and overcome a strong shooting night from the Huskies (53.8 percent from the floor to USC's 42.4).

The Trojans pulled away in the second half, holding a 14-point lead before Washington cut it to 3. Aaron drained two free throws to push it back to five as the clock wound down.

With the win, USC advanced to the second round, where it will face three-seed UCLA tonight at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

McGillen Gallery: Pac-12 Tournament - USC vs. UW

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Last night, USC kicked off the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament with a win over Washington. After fighting for 40 minutes and racking up countless dunks, the Trojans topped the Huskies, 78-73, to advance to the second round.

USC team photographer John McGillen captured all the action at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.

Mr. Reliable

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

USC_Basketball_Cal_2017_mcgillen_LR_7090.jpgUSC really needed a bucket. Coming off of an impressive run to go dancing in 2016, the 2016-17 season came with hefty expectations. After winning their first two games of the season, the Trojans faced a true road game down south against Texas A&M. After a strong first half, the Trojans trailed, 62-57, with just over two minutes to go.

Freshman De'Anthony Melton secured a rebound and made his way down the court. As the shot clock began to wind down, USC point guard Jordan McLaughlin passed the ball to the freshman. Despite having taken very few jumpers throughout his high school and AAU career, Melton confidently stepped into the three-pointer and buried it. Minutes later he would secure a two-point lead by hitting a clutch free throw. In just his third game in college, Melton stepped up beyond his 18 years of age.

This didn't surprise Melton's teammates or his coaches. It didn't surprise them that Melton, who wasn't ranked in the Top 100 as a high school prospect, could play. Melton, after all, came in with the reputation of being a Swiss Army knife type of player. What they didn't expect was how soon he would become invaluable and impossible to keep off the floor.

"With De'Anthony, we knew that his gift was that he can do everything," said associate head coach Tony Bland. "What we did not know was that it would translate so soon and at this high of a level." Early on in the season Melton led the Pac-12 in steals, eventually ending the regular season with the third-most in the conference. He started the season as McLaughlin's understudy at point guard, only to eventually become Jordan's starting partner in the back court. He's become the ultimate glue guy and an unsung hero.

"I've never had a player like that. I've never had a player that was, across the board, really good at everything," said Bland. "I've had a good defender, I've had a good athlete, I've had a little bit of everything, but I've never had a player that you look up and at the end of the game, it's almost a triple-double... every single time he's out there."

USC-BASKETBALL-OREGON-STATE-MCGILLEN-2017--5351.jpgMelton appeared in all 31 games for the Trojans and when you look at the stat sheet, you really see how invaluable he became. By the end of the regular season, he finished second on the team in rebounds and assists per game, first in steals per game, third in blocks, free throws made and free throws attempted per game, and fourth in minutes per game. Melton credits his all-around game to the coaching he got in high school.

"My coach really dictated on us to play hard no matter what. If you play hard, you stay on the floor more. Sometimes you get easy buckets," Melton recalled. "No matter if you're shooting bad or shooting good, if you always play hard, things come a lot easier for you."

Melton plays about as hard as any player in the Pac-12, allowing him to play with tenacity and energy on both sides of the ball. Through his hard play and ability to impact the game in so many ways, he's changed the way some of his teammates approached their own playing time.

"He's helped other guys understand that you don't have to just score to leave an imprint on a game," said USC's director of scouting Martin Bahar. "I think he's kind of opened some other guys' eyes up to like, 'Hey, I can contribute.' I don't have to make every shot any given night. There's all these other things I can do."

While most freshmen are looking to nail down a rotation spot and focus on one area of their game, Melton cracked the rotation by finding a way to be Mr. Everything for the Trojans. The key to Melton's success, to Bland, has been confidence.

"To me, the area he's improved on the most is that he's approaching the game with his shoulders back and his chest out, saying, 'Hey, I'm just as good if not better than anyone I've faced all year and I'm about to show it,'" explained Bland.

Throughout the season, Melton has faced plenty of faces who were ranked higher than him in high school and he's hung with them all, even outplaying some. It's led to him competing with even more of a chip on his shoulder, but he has not gotten too caught up into rankings.

"Rankings don't really matter to me. I knew how good I was, and people around me knew how good I was, so my goal was to show everyone nationally how good I am," he recounted.

Melton now has certainly gotten the attention of the college basketball world, but the humble freshman isn't getting too far ahead of himself.

"I definitely have a lot to get better at. It's like a stepping stone. I try not to get too high or too low on myself, even though I am hard on myself," admitted Melton. "I know this is just scraping the surface of what I can do. I always take that mindset and never get too happy with a game."

McGillen Gallery: 2017 Spring Practice #1

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Yesterday, USC football hit the practice field for the first time since the culmination of the 2016 season. At the start of spring ball, the Trojans welcomed a few new faces, plus future and past members of the football team.

Looking for Revenge

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Tomorrow, USC men's tennis hosts UCLA, aiming to avenge its 4-3 loss to the Bruins last month.

Click here for the full preview!

The Trojans are 12-2 on the season and ranked No. 14 in the nation, while the Bruins are ranked No. 13 at 8-3.

In their last meeting, USC won the doubles point, but UCLA evened things up and pushed it to 3-3. The match came down to Court 1, where UCLA's Martin Redlicki upset USC's Brandon Holt to clinch the victory. Since that loss, Holt has gone 3-1 in dual match play and the Trojans have won four straight.

USC's two most recent matches were tight 4-3 victories, in which the Trojans dropped the doubles point and had to claw their way back ahead. Prior to those two matches, USC had won every doubles point all season, and hopes to get back on track tomorrow.

Tomorrow's match kicks off at 3 p.m. at USC's Marks Stadium. Admission is free and open to the public, and the first 150 fans receive a free grilled cheese sandwich from the Grilled Cheese Truck.

2017 Spring Practice #1: Notes

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USC football kicked off its preparation for the 2017 season with the first practice of spring football today.

  • usc-football-spring-2017-030717-mcgillen-7531.jpgJunior LB Cam Smith summed it up best. "It was awesome. It feels so good to be out here," he said. "It was a great day one."
  • USC head coach Clay Helton noted that the following players won't take the field with Smith this spring, as they're still recovering from injury: C Toa Lobendahn (ACL), DB Jonathan Lockett (hip surgery), WR Steven Mitchell Jr. (ACL), WR Trevon Sidney (hip surgery), OT Nathan Smith (ACL).
  • Helton also mentioned that the following players would be limited in spring practice: DT Kenny Bigelow (ACL), DT Jacob Daniel (hamstring), LB Porter Gustin (hand surgery), C Nico Falah (back), OG Viane Talamaivao (hamstring) and RB Dominic Davis (concussion symptoms).
  • Aside from injured players, four notable Trojans will be absent from USC's spring practice: all four of the 2016 team captains. QB Max Browne transferred to Pitt, while LB Michael Hutchings and OT Zach Banner graduated and CB Adoree' Jackson left for the NFL. As a result, one of Helton's main focuses this camp is developing leadership. "It's going to be a time for young people that were freshmen and sophomores to step up and take more of a leadership role," he said.
  • QB Sam Darnold (pictured), who won the 2016 Archie Griffin Award and was named a 2016 Freshman All-American, is a natural candidate to step into a leadership position. "He's pushed himself into a bit of a vocal role," Helton said of his QB. "I've asked Sam to just be him. One of the great things that Sam does: he is a great one-on-one leader, to pull a guy aside and communicate with him."
  • In addition to honing his leadership skills, Darnold has spent his offseason studying film, getting more flexible and developing relationships with a young wide receiving corps following the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, the two most prolific wideouts last season. "There's not really that go-to guy yet," Darnold said. "Everyone can make plays, and that's my point: that I can trust anyone on every single play."
  • Deontay Burnett, the most productive returning WR, echoed Darnold's sentiment. "I don't plan on there being a go-to guy," he said. "Everybody is going to get their opportunity. That's how I'm going to approach this season. I'm not going to think just because Darreus and JuJu left, it's my turn. It's everyone's turn. We're going to need everybody to win a national championship."
  • Burnett did look like an emerging No. 1 receiver on the field, though, with sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. just behind. Redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns got a number of good looks, as well. "We really want to bring those younger guys along, and when we do I think we are going to be a scary offense to deal with," said Darnold.
  • Darnold, his teammates and his head coach all emphasized that while proud of their accomplishments last season, they want to start fresh in their quest for a Pac-12 title and a national championship this year. "Last year was extremely rewarding, going to the Rose Bowl," Helton said. "But that is in the past now, and we move on, because it is a new year, and there are a lot of things that we have to address."
  • One issue the Trojans must address is the departure of three starting offensive linemen (Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama). Helton said that junior Chuma Edoga and redshirt sophomore Roy Hemsley are the likeliest candidates to replace Wheeler and Banner on the left and right flanks of Darnold, respectively. Edoga has four starts under his belt, while Hemsley saw action in two games last year.
  • On the other side of the ball, USC must replace "the middle of a defense," as Helton characterized NT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, Mike LB Michael Hutchings and FS Leon McQuay III. But several young Trojans are on the rise, according to their teammates. "He's athletic, and he knows his stuff," said Smith of redshirt sophomore LB John Houston. Senior safety Chris Hawkins called redshirt freshman safety Jamel Cook "a good football player," and said he's excited to see him go full speed once he learns the playbook.
  • USC gears up for its second spring practice on Thursday.
  • Watch Helton's full press conference here:

Trojans Live: Spring Football Preview

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USC head coach Clay Helton and rising sophomore WR Michael Pittman Jr. joined Trojans Live last night to preview spring football. Helton emphasized the need to use the Rose Bowl success as a springboard going into next season, while Pittman is expected to help fill the gaping hole left by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers.

Click here to watch Pittman on Trojans Live.

Also on the show, women's tennis star Madison Westby talking about the program's huge win over No. 4 Michigan, growing up in Oklahoma and her plans for life after tennis.

Click here to watch Westby on Trojans Live.

Here is Helton on the eve of Spring Football:

First of Many

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pac-12pair-hughes.claes.jpgAfter opening up the season with two straight-set victories, USC beach volleyball duo Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes were named the Pac-12 Pair of the Week.

Click here for the full release!

In No. 1 USC's season-opening bout with No. 3 UCLA, Claes and Hughes earned a tight 21-19 victory in the first set, then found their rhythm for a 21-12 score in the second. Against Pepperdine, they cruised to a 21-12, 21-13 victory.

Those two wins extended Claes and Hughes' winning streak to 75 consecutive matches as a pair, dating back to April 2, 2015, when they fell in three sets to a duo from Loyola Marymount.

The senior stalwarts on Court 1 have helped guide the Trojans to 32 consecutive team wins, including back-to-back national championships. Along the way, they've picked up four Pac-12 Pair of the Week honors, more than any other pair in Pac-12 beach volleyball history.

Claes, Hughes and the Trojans are back at it on Friday when they host an International Exhibition at Merle Norman Stadium at 11 a.m.