USC Opens Pac-12 Play Sunday At Rival UCLA
Jan. 2, 2014
The USC Trojans (9-4) will play the UCLA Bruins (11-2) at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Jan. 5 at noon. The game will be televised on FS1 with Justin Kutcher and Sean Elliott calling the action. USC has won five of its last six games and its 9-4 start is its best since also beginning the 2010 season 9-4. That team went on to begin the season 10-4. USC is 1-2 on the road this season, has lost its last four Pac-12 road openers and it 4-6 in its last 10 conference openers (home or road).
BREAKING DOWN THE MATCHUP WITH THE BRUINS - UCLA is 11-2 after a 75-67 home win vs. Alabama on Dec. 28. UCLA has been led in scoring by sophomores Jordan Adams (18.5) and Kyle Anderson (14.5). The Bruins have eight players who have averaged more than 20 minutes per game this season. The Trojans and the Bruins square off to start conference play for the first time since opening the 1990-91 conference action at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA leads the all-time series with USC, 133-104* (one USC win in 2008 vacated). The teams have split the last 10 games and USC won the last game at UCLA, 75-71 in overtime, on Jan. 30, 2013. USC has won five of the last 11 games at Pauley (one win later vacated due to NCAA penalty).
STRONG SECOND HALF PUTS AWAY HOWARD -- Byron Wesley led USC with 20 points, scoring 14 of them in the second half, and the Trojans defeated Howard University 82-60 on Dec. 29. USC led Howard 29-26 at intermission, but things turned around quickly for the Trojans after the break as they used an 13-4 run in the first two-plus minutes of the second half to open a 42-30 lead and coasted from there. Julian Jacobs scored the first five and Wesley the next eight in the run. USC made 60 percent of its shots in the second half and finished the game hitting 55.8 percent. USC held Howard to 38.5 percent shooting, including 3-for-17 from three-point range. J.T. Terrell came off the bench and sparked the Trojans early with 12 first-half points and finished with 18 in his first significant minutes since the opener due to academic issues. Nikola Jovanovic added 15 points and six rebounds.
UNWRAPPING THE CONFERENCE -- The Pac-12 has represented itself well in the pre-conference action with Arizona reaching the No. 1 ranking in the polls and Oregon a top 10 selection. Pac-12 teams have posted a combined 119-32 record (.788) and an even more impressive 94-6 mark at home (.940). Every Pac-12 team is at least two games above .500.
ASU ON DECK - USC's next opponent will be Arizona State (11-2). The Sun Devils open conference play at home vs. Washington on Jan. 2 and Washington State on Jan. 5 before traveling to face USC in Los Angeles on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. The teams split the 2013 season series with ASU winning 98-93 in overtime at home and USC winning 57-56 at home. Seven of the last nine games between the two teams have been decided by six points or less. USC leads the all-time series 50-36. Sophomore Jahii Carson has led ASU in scoring with 19.3 points per game.
NIKOLA 2.0 -- Freshman Nikola Jovanovic can't help but draw comparisons to another Nikola who played for USC, Orlando Magic star Nikola Vucevic. Jovanovic has been given a chance to play more earlier in his career and has already scored more points that Vucevic did his entire freshman season. Jovanovic is leading USC with a .767 shooting percentage from the free throw line (10 or more attempts) and from three-point range (.368). He is also quickly establishing himself as a tough rebounder by averaging 5.6 per game, while averaging 10.0 points per game. Jovanovic has scored 80 points (13.3 ppg) and pulled down 45 rebounds (7.5 rpg) in the last six games. He posted his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds vs. CSUB on Dec. 15.
TOUGH STRETCH -- USC's next five opponents (UCLA, Arizona, ASU, Utah & Colorado) have a combined 57-7 record this season. Included in that stretch for USC is three road games and the teams are a combined 29-0 on their home courts.
SIGNS OF SLAM CITY -- USC had one dunk against Howard on Dec. 29 and now has out-slammed the opposition 39-14 this season.
GETTING TO THE LINE -- USC has taken 345 free throws through 13 games for an average of 26.5 per game. Last season through 13 games, USC averaged 17.5 free throw attempts (228 total). USC opponents this season have taken 19.3 free throws per game.
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS -- USC outrebounded Howard 48-26 on Dec. 29 and has outrebounded the opposition in nine of 13 games this season for a 531-472 advantage. USC ranked 21st in the country in total rebounds through games of Dec. 29. USC's 22-rebound advantage vs. Howard was a season best.
USC A LITTLE MORE OFFENSIVE IN 2013-14 -- Through the first 13 games this season USC has scored 975 points, 161 more than through the first 13 games of the 2012-13 season, for an average of 12.4 more points per game. USC has scored 73 or more points eight times this season, after reaching that scoring plateau a total of six times last season. USC is averaging 75.0 points per game, its most since averaging 75.4 points in the 2004 season.