Throwback Thursday: Backstop Jack

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USC baseball has a huge weekend ahead hosting No. 1 TCU and No. 4 Vanderbilt at Dedeaux Field before Sunday's showdown against No. 7 UCLA at Dodger Stadium.

Click here for TCU and Vandy tickets.

Click here for Dodger Stadium tickets.

The Trojans have jumped out to a 12-1 start, so in their honor, here is a classic photo of new Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio during his days as a USC catcher.

Jack Del Rio 2.jpg

Following Feathers

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No. 7 USC men's volleyball snapped its four-match losing streak last night by dispatching UC San Diego in three quick sets.

Click here for the recap.

The Trojans were led by Robert Feathers who recorded nine kills hitting .462, and then sat down with Pac-12 Networks after the win.

Ready for Round Three

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USC women's basketball will need to beat Colorado for the third time this season to advance in the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament, which begins today in Seattle. The 8-seeded Women of Troy will play the 9-seeded Buffaloes at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

On their way to practice Wednesday, Jordan Adams and Drew Edelman previewed the match-up.

3-Points: UCLA 85, USC 74

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The Trojans battled all game, but could never overcome the Bruins' 18-5 run from early in the first half, losing their final regular season game against their crosstown rival.

Second Chances

The Trojans looked for redemption in the Battle of Los Angeles after the Bruins blew them out of their home gym back in January, losing by 17. However, USC lost by 11 on Wednesday despite a hard-fought effort against a UCLA team that is hitting its stride at the right time. "I think they played hard, they played well throughout the game. The second chance points really hurt us," said head coach Andy Enfield, referring to the fact that UCLA had 22 points off offensive rebounds to USC's six. "We played well enough to win the game but we didn't rebound enough to win the game." USC just couldn't compete with the physicality of players like Kevon Looney and Tony Parker who scored the first 15 points of the game for UCLA. Looney finished with a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) while Parker finished with 22 points and seven rebounds with six of those rebounds being off the offensive glass. The Trojans also gave the Bruins plenty of opportunities in transition as they struggled with turnovers for the first time in a while. "We made a couple poor decisions in transition where we tried to force things and that led to about three of those turnovers," said Enfield. The team finished with 16 turnovers leading to 22 points for UCLA. This high turnover ratio is somewhat of a step back for the Trojans who have drastically improved their decision-making since the beginning of the season.

The Rally that Never Came

The Trojans are known for their late game heroics with nine games since the start of conference play that have come down to the final minutes. After heading to the locker room down by 12 at the half, USC came out in the second half looking for another epic rally to close out its season. The Trojans brought the UCLA lead within eight points five times in the second half, but as soon as they would go on a run, the Bruins would hit a clutch shot most likely from the hands of Bryce Alford who finished with 23 points. "Every time we cut the lead to seven or eight, they hit a tough shot," said Enfield. "So give credit to them. We played hard." Katin Reinhardt, who's been looking for his time to shine in recent games, came in off the bench providing the Trojans with a spark they needed. He led the team at the half with 12 points and finished the game with 22 points including five three-pointers in just 29 minutes. Elijah Stewart joined him as the threat from beyond the arc, finishing with 14 points, and PF Nikola Jovanovic contributed 16 points from the paint. 

Tournament Time

The Trojans now enter the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 12-seed and will face the No. 5 seed on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. PT. If USC wins its first-round game then it will face rival UCLA for the third time this season. The Trojans will be without PF Strahinja Gavrilovic who is out for the season with a torn labrum. Gavrilovic joins PG Jordan McLaughlin who is also out for the season with a shoulder injury. Though the Trojans finished in last place in the Pac-12, they played just about every conference team hard with nine games coming down to the wire as previously mentioned. Enfield has preached all season that USC could have won a handful of those games if the ball bounced the Trojans' way a few times. So, anything could happen for USC come next Wednesday in Vegas. 

Here are the SnappyTV highlights from Wednesday's loss at Pauley Pavilion...

Trojans Live - Spring Football Preview

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If you missed last night's Trojans Live, Iman "Biggie" Marshall (video below) was introduced to the Trojan Family. The five-star freshman defensive back discussed why he chose USC, his unique announcement video and how he plans to make an instant impact.

Plus, sophomore WR JuJu Smith plans on taking a leadership role this season, and men's golfers Sean Crocker and Rico Hoey have pushed USC to No. 4 in the national rankings.

Click here for JuJu.

Click here for Crocker and Hoey.

Here is "Biggie"...

Alumni Return for Kickoff

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

USC alum Geena Urango (pictured above) was the first scholarship player for the sand volleyball program in 2012. 

The USC women's sand volleyball team will kickoff the 2015 season with the annual Cardinal and Gold match featuring legendary alumni like national champion Stevi Robinson, Jennifer Kessy, Tracy (Lindquist) Jones, Jeanne Vetter and Geena Urango. The alumni will square off against the No. 2 AVCA preseason ranked Women of Troy at 6:00p.m. on Thursday at Merle Norman Stadium.

Stevi Robinson won the 2013 AVCA Pairs Championship with Kirby Burnham who won her second championship in 2013 with freshman Sara Hughes before graduating. Hughes will look to carry on the winning tradition as well as lead the Women of Troy to a team title in the program's fourth season. After kicking things off against former USC stars, the team will face another tough challenger in a scrimmage against the USA national team before opening its season on March 12 against TCU. 

Defending the Crown

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USC women's basketball made an historic run to the Pac-12 Tournament title last season under head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, earning an NCAA Tournament automatic bid in the process. Now, the second year coach leads the Women of Troy back to Seattle, hoping to bust some brackets again.

Click here for a tournament preview.

In the first round, No. 8 USC will try to beat No. 9 Colorado for the third time this season. The Trojans and Buffaloes will tip-off at 6 p.m. PT on Thursday (Pac-12 Networks) with the winner advancing to play No. 1 Oregon State on Friday at 6 p.m. PT.

Click here for the complete bracket.

Photo Gallery: 2015 Spring Practice #1

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New faces and old scattered Cromwell Field Tuesday as the Trojans returned to practice to begin Spring Football.

Here are the John McGillen photos:

Good JuJu

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Sophomore point guard Julian Jacobs is embracing the well known saying, "success occurs when opportunity meets preparation" as he leads the Trojans into their final week of regular season play.

When freshman Jordan McLaughlin went down with a shoulder injury midway through the Utah game on February 1, Jacobs confidently stepped in at point. Averaging 8.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game over the whole season, the captain turned up the heat in February when his team needed him most. In the last month, Jacobs averaged 10 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, becoming one of just two players from a major conference to average at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in that stretch (D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State).

But while the latter half of conference play has been his opportunity to shine, Jacobs' performance on both sides of the court has been impressive all season. He boasts a .503 field goal percentage (top 10 in the Pac-12) and is second on the team with 32 steals. His superb court vision allows him to distribute efficiently from the point, placing him at second on the team in assists with 95. But it's his athleticism that enables him to lead the team with 18 dunks, an emphatic signature he's stamped onto the end of many of USC's top plays this season.

Jacobs is looking to leave his mark on the Trojans' final regular season game on Wednesday night. USC travels to Westwood to face the Bruins at 6 p.m. PT (ESPN2) where it hopes the momentum from Saturday's win over Washington will propel them to another victory.


2015 Spring Practice #1: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Trojans' first spring practice of 2015 is in the books and it was a spirited showing for the team that was happy to get back on the field...
  • "It was really fun to watch the competition, to watch our guys battle one another and make each other better," head coach Steve Sarkisian said after Tuesday's practice. "We don't play a football game for six months. The key for us is to focus on today. How we are getting better individually and as a team, physically, mentally and emotionally. We can't worry about the stuff that's down the road."
  • The major focuses for the spring include replacing the holes left by NFL departures and graduating seniors along with an emphasis on finishing games. Sarkisian said he and his coaching staff looked at the close games that the Trojans lost in 2014 and are dedicated to fixing that through specific drills in spring practice. "The defense won the finish challenge today. They took the first three of five," Sarkisian said. "We want to work to be at our best at the end of practice, at those most critical moments. We will continue to run drills that simulate the final two minutes of the game."
  • Sarkisian continues to be impressed with Cody Kessler who has raised the bar for himself and his team heading into the upcoming season. "From putting this offense in a year ago to where we are today, I don't know if I could be more pleased with Cody," added Sarkisian. "He's really operating at a high level. There is a chip on his shoulder, he's really hungry and he wants to get better. It rubs off on his teammates and that's exactly what you want from a fifth-year quarterback."
  • The senior quarterback is looking to build upon the momentum from a fantastic junior season and has already honed in on elements of his game that need improvement, including accuracy and timing. "I'm focused on getting the ball off faster, putting the ball where it needs to be even before my receivers are there," explained Kessler. "That is going to come with time but it's something I'm working on this spring."
  • Though his name is already being mentioned in preseason Heisman conversations amongst the nation's most elite quarterbacks, Kessler's focus remains on the postseason goals he has for his team rather than himself. "Talking with Marcus [Mariota], he said last year that he'd trade his Heisman trophy for a national championship any day. That's a mentality that you have to have. If you don't put your team goals first, you're never going to be successful."
  • Tuesday was the first chance for USC's early entrant players to officially practice with the team, and Sarkisian was happy with the result. These players include OT-OG Roy Hemsley, OT Chuma Edoga, QB Ricky Town, WR Isaac Whitney and LB Cameron Smith. "They got into the flow of practice which is all you can really ask of them at this point," the head coach said. "They flashed in some areas and then they had their moments where they didn't make a play as well as they would have liked. All in all, the first college practice for those guys was about as good as you can get."
  • New USC offensive line coach Bob Connelly had his first official practice as a Trojan as well. Sarkisian said he is impressed with the coach and the way senior center Max Tuerk (on his fourth offensive line coach in four years) is helping his teammates with the transition. "I'm excited about our offensive line," Sarkisian said. "The depth that we have there is as good as any I've seen here or anywhere I've been in a long time. That group is going to be good. I don't think just next year, but they're going to be good here for awhile."
  • Sarkisian was also encouraged by the state of many players who are back after injured 2014 seasons. Some of these players include OT Jordan Austin, DT Kenny Bigelow, LB Lamar Dawson, LB Jabari Ruffin, and RB Tre Madden.
  • Dawson was one of the players that really stood out in the first spring practice, which Sarkisian credited to a successful offseason conditioning program. "Lamar seemed like a different player to me than what I'd seen all of last year," explained Sarksiain. "He's very confident and he's moving very suddenly. He came out today and looked great. I was very encouraged by that."
  • With the departure of Buck Allen, the majority of carries this fall will presumably be split between junior RB Justin Davis and redshirt senior RB Tre Madden, who is still working back from a toe injury suffered last fall. Madden impressed the coaches on Tuesday with his strength and dedication to be back in his best form. "What I forgot about Tre is how big and physical he is," Sarkisian said. "He and Justin complement each other really well. Justin has great speed and cutting ability and Tre has such a hammer mentality along with a great football IQ and an ability to catch the ball. For his first day back he looked pretty good to me."
  • Sophomore TE Bryce Dixon was not at the Trojans' first practice due to a student conduct issue.
  • Here is Sarkisian after Tuesday's practice...