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Sweet Revenge

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USC men's tennis avenged a loss to UCLA last month with a resounding win over the Bruins yesterday.

Click here for the full recap!

On Feb. 17, the Trojans fell to UCLA, 4-3, at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. When No. 14 USC hosted its crosstown rival at Marks Stadium yesterday, though, it faced no such difficulty.

Just like in the first match, USC clinched the doubles point to take a one-point lead into singles play. But this time, the Trojans flipped the script and racked up three wins in singles to earn a 4-1 victory over 13th-ranked UCLA.

USC's Thibault Forget got revenge against UCLA's Austin Rapp, who beat him at the National Indoors tournament, to push USC's lead to 2-0 on the day. On Court 1, Brandon Holt followed suit with a straight-sets victory over Martin Redlicki, who got the better of him last month. The Trojans dropped a point on Court 2, but USC's Logan Smith clinched the match on Court 3.

Though the win doesn't count towards conference play, it pushed the Trojans to 13-2 on the season as they head into next Tuesday's double-header with Lehigh and Texas Tech.

What Stays In Vegas

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Last night, USC men's basketball ended its Pac-12 Tournament run with a tight loss to UCLA.

Read the full recap here.

Spectators may have counted the Trojans out after the opening minutes, when they went 1-of-14 from the field. But the team rallied and locked in on defense -- forcing 10 turnovers -- to head into halftime down just three points.

After another slow start to the half, the sixth-seeded Trojans gave the Bruins all they could handle down the stretch. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin managed his fourth straight double-digit scoring effort, leading the Trojans with 18 points and 6 assists. Shooting guard Elijah Stewart added 17 points off the bench, including a high-flying finish on an alley-oop from McLaughlin.

While forward Chimezie Metu only made two buckets, he finished with 14 crucial rebounds, the sixth-most in the history of the conference tournament. His presence helped USC hold the Bruins 15 points below their nation-leading scoring average.

The Trojans missed a few opportunities to tie the game as time ran out. USC's Bennie Boatwright hit a three just before the buzzer to make the final score 76-74 in favor of the Bruins.

Now, USC, sporting a 24-9 record with two wins over opponents ranked in the Top 15, looks forward to Selection Sunday, when it learns its NCAA Tournament Fate.

2017 Spring Practice #2: Notes

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Written by Max Holm and Alexa Palermo, USC blog contributors

USC football got back to business on Thursday for its second practice of spring football.

  • usc-football-spring-2017-030717-mcgillen-8618.jpgCoach Clay Helton laid out the focus for his team for the first few practices. "Right now we're focusing on just getting through our base installation, our first and second down game plan over the first three days." The Trojans first full pad practice will take place on Saturday. After Saturday, the team will be on spring break and then return for four more weeks of spring football.
  • Helton noted new injuries in addition to those he mentioned on Tuesday: WR Josh Imatorbhebhe (shoulder), CB/WR Keyshawn "Pie" Young (groin), DT Jacob Daniel (hamstring) and WR Jake Russell (hip flexor).
  • In addition to injury news, Helton announced that safety John Plattenburg will be stepping away from football. "He suffered a concussion in the Rose Bowl and because of medical situations he's chosen to just concentrate on academics. He's done so much for us. He's a Trojan for life." Plattenburg's departure adds to the need for many Trojans to step up.
  • One of those players ready to step up is wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (pictured). Pittman got first team reps for the second day in a row and is excited about the competition. "It's competition all day: meetings, workouts, field. Competition really pushes you to be the best and we got a lot of that here," said Pittman. "I think that anyone can step up. We have a good group of talented guys and any of us could."
  • In addition to Pittman and Tyler Vaughns, Helton said he was impressed by redshirt freshman Velus Jones Jr. "You can see the speed just go by you," said Helton. "He's going to be a dangerous weapon. Hopefully he'll provide some speed like Adoree' did."
  • While the Trojans will look toward new faces at wide receiver, the team returns almost all of its running backs. Ronald Jones II will be the feature back and is embracing more of a leadership role this spring. "I think the leadership starts with me, Ced and James," said Jones. "Being the older guys, we got sophomores and some freshmen coming in, so they will look up to us and ask us how to do things. I think it is going to be on our shoulders this year."
  • The Trojans will also look to fill the void at corner back left by Adoree' Jackson, with Jack Jones in play to earn a starting spot opposite his good friend from Long Beach Poly, Iman Marshall. "He knows he's got the opportunity to compete and fill some big shoes," said Helton. "In the first two days he's made some big plays out here, a couple interceptions and a couple break ups." Helton added that Jones' competitiveness has become very apparent.
  • As the Trojans look to strengthen their secondary, they'll also look to establish a new offensive line. Helton said Cam Smith told him that what's stood out to him has been the speed of the line. "He said they're getting to the second level quicker," explained Helton, who referenced the athleticism of this group. Helton also praised the younger guys, naming freshman Andrew Vorhees as someone who is playing well despite being so young.
  • Despite the youth and losses on the offensive line, the Trojans will return veterans Nico Falah and Toa Lobendahn. Helton said he envisions the best center between the two of them starting at that position and that ideally the other would move to guard or tackle. "You got to find your best five," said Helton.
  • USC's third practice will be held on Saturday.
  • Watch Helton's full press conference here:

Holy Ground

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baseball.jpegThree days after posting its second shutout of of the season, USC baseball returns home for a series against Holy Cross.

Click here for the full preview!

Tuesday's 1-0 win at San Diego State helped the Trojans improve to 8-4 on the season, while Holy Cross sits at 1-8. The three games will give three Trojan pitchers the opportunity to improve upon their records so far this season.

Freshman Chris Clarke (1-0, 3.09 ERA), who tossed 5.2 scoreless innings in USC's comeback win over UCLA, will get the start tomorrow. Junior Brad Wegman, who sports a 1-1 record on the season (5.06 ERA) will start Saturday, and sophomore Marrick Crouse (1-1, 14.66 ERA) will kick things off on Sunday.

While USC's pitching has improved as the season's gone on, its offensive output has been consistently impressive. Leading the charge is sophomore Lars Nootbaar, who leads the conference in RBI (15) and is tied for the lead in HR (4).

Nootbaar and the Trojans play Holy Cross Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. All games will be streamed on Pac-12.com!

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.

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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.

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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.