USC To Open Up Oregon's New Arena
Jan. 11, 2011
The USC Trojans (10-6, 2-1) will play at the Oregon Ducks (7-9, 0-4) in the new Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 13 at 8:00 p.m. The game will be aired on Fox Sports Net with Steve Physioc and Marques Johnson calling the action and Rebecca Haarlow providing sideline commentary. USC has won two straight for the fifth time this season, but has not won three consecutive games. USC is the last Pac-10 team to play a conference road game.
BREAKING DOWN THE DUCKS -- The Ducks played their last game at historic McArthur Court which opened in 1927 on Jan. 1 vs. Arizona State, a 60-55 loss. Oregon (7-9, 0-4) has been led in scoring by redshirt senior Joevan Catron who is averaging 15.9 points per game. Catron was granted a medical hardship season during the offseason. USC lost both games to Oregon last season, but lead the all-time series 62-44 (2 wins in 2008 later vacated due to NCAA penalty). USC's 67-57 loss at Oregon last season snapped a four-year winning streak for the Trojans in Eugene, its longest since winning five consecutive seasons from 1971-75.
USC RUNS WINNING STREAK TO FOUR AGAINST RIVAL UCLA -- Nikola Vucevic scored 20 points to lead USC to a 63-52 victory over UCLA on Jan. 9 for its fourth straight win over its crosstown rival. Alex Stepheson added 13 points and 16 rebounds playing his first game without the brace he had worn since breaking a bone in his left hand in the first game of the season. The Trojans opened both halves with scoring bursts in front of a sellout home crowd. USC held the Bruins to 39.6 percent shooting, including 25.9 percent following the break.
OREGON STATE ON DECK -- USC's next game will be at Oregon State (7-8, 2-2) on Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. The Beavers will host UCLA on Jan. 13 before facing USC. Oregon State has been led by sophomore Jared Cunningham who averages 14.6 points and a conference-leading 3.1 steals per game. USC lost both games to Oregon State last season, but leads the all-time series 66-57 (2 wins in 2008 later vacated due to NCAA penalty).
DEFENSE HAS BEEN STINGY -- Since returning from the loss at TCU (81-69) with renewed focus on defense, USC has gone 6-2 and held the opposition to a .366 shooting percentage (157-for-429). Washington's 40.0 percent shooting on Dec. 29 was the highest by an opponent during the eight games. USC held UW to 55 points in regulation, 35.5 points below its average, WSU to 56 points (21.3 points below its average) and UCLA to 52 points, (21.6 below its average).
USC RISES TO CHALLENGE -- The Trojans are 6-2 in their last eight games against teams all over .500, with four ranked opponents and with a combined record of 89-35 (.718 winning percentage) entering this week's action. USC's two losses in that stretch were by two at No. 3 Kansas and in overtime vs. Pac-10 preseason top pick Washington.
THE LONG-RANGE CHANGE -- After making just 107 three-pointers last season, last in the conference by a significant margin, the Trojans have already made 98 shots from beyond the arc and rank fifth in that category. Donte Smith leads the way with 35 (4th in the conference entering this week), followed by Bryce Jones with 19, Maurice Jones with 14, Nikola Vucevic with 13 and Jio Fontan with 9 in six games. As a team, USC had made 36.2 percent of its three-point shots, fourth in the conference. USC hit just 29.7 percent from long-range last season.
ESPNU FOLLOWS TROJANS - ESPNU followed the Trojans for two days (Jan. 9 and Jan. 11) and will produce a half-hour show offering a behind-the-scenes, all-access look at the USC men's basketball program which will air for the first time on Jan. 26. Viewers of the show will get an inside look at head coach Kevin O'Neill and his team as they prepared for their showdown with crosstown rival UCLA and for their first conference road trip. The show takes you inside the locker room and practice, as well as provides a tour of the Galen Center, the USC campus and unique look at O'Neill's home life.
WHERE WILL THIS ROAD LEAD? - USC's win in its last road game at Tennessee on Dec. 21 snapped a six-game road losing streak dating back to last season. USC has lost its last three conference road games and was 2-7 in Pac-10 road games in each of the past two seasons. The Trojans will be playing five of their next seven games on the road, playing at Oregon (Jan. 13) and Oregon State (Jan. 15), at home vs. Stanford (Jan. 20) and California (Jan. 22), then at Arizona State (Jan. 27), Arizona (Jan. 29) and UCLA (Feb. 2). USC went 1-4 at those sites during the 2009-10 season, with the lone win being a 67-46 victory at UCLA.
TEAM TROJAN -- Six of the players in USC's eight-man rotation have had a game with at least 15 points scored and the other two have had 12 points in a game. Six different Trojans have led the team or tied for game-high honors in assists, steals, scoring and blocks.
MIGHTY "MO" - Freshman point guard Maurice Jones, standing 5-7 and weighing 155 pounds, has been a tower of power for USC. He is third on the team with an average of 10.3 points per game and 14 three-pointers made, tied for third with 3.3 rebounds per game and leads USC with 62 assists and 33 steals. Jones leads all Pac-10 players by averaging 36.7 minutes per game and is second in steals and third in assists. Jones has scored in double-figures seven times and has a Trojan game-high of 29 points on Nov. 15 vs. Santa Clara. He was USC's primary ball-handler the first 10 games and shares the duties now with Jio Fontan and has just two games all season with more turnovers than assists. In his last eight games, Jones has 30 assists and 14 turnovers, while making 16 steals on defense.
NIK THE QUICK...AS IN QUICKLY GETTING NOTICED - Junior forward Nikola Vucevic was named Pac-10 Most Improved Player for the 2010 season and continues to take his game to the next level. Through the first 16 games, Vucevic leads USC with 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds while attempting to become the first Trojan to average a double-double since Jaha Wilson averaged 14.2 points and 10.1 rebounds during the 1994-95 season. Vucevic leads the conference in total rebounds (154) and defensive rebounds (112), ranks second in minutes per game (34.6), tied for second in blocked shots (23) and third in scoring (16.1 ppg). Vucevic has demonstrated an all-around game for USC, leading the team in points, blocks and rebounds, ranking second in free throw percentage (.770) and assists (28) and ranking fourth in three-pointers made (13). Vucevic scored a game-high 20 points vs. UCLA on Jan. 9, his fifth 20-point game of the season.
SIMMONS HAS BEEN DEFENSIVE STOPPER - Senior guard Marcus Simmons has frequently been called upon in his career to guard the opponent's top scorer and on Dec. 5 vs. No. 19 Texas was asked to guard Texas' Jordan Hamilton, averaging 21.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Simmons held Hamilton to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting and limited him to four rebounds. The next game against NAU on Dec. 11, he covered Cameron Jones who was coming off a 27-point performance and had averaged 20.0 points in the previous 5 games. Simmons held Jones to 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting. He was also matched up against Tennessee's top scorer Scotty Hopson on Dec. 21 and was part of the reason he was held to just eight points. On Dec. 23 vs. Lehigh, Simmons was matched up against C.J. McCollum who was averaging 22.5 points and helped hold him to seven points. On Dec. 31 vs. WSU, was matched on the Pac-10's leading scorer Klay Thompson who finished with 17 points, but made only 6 of 18 shots. He has covered the opponents' main scorer in the last eight games and held them to 30.5 percent shooting (25-for-82) and 10.0 points per game. Simmons has started USC's first 15 games and averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.
SENIOR SHARP-SHOOTER SMITH -- Senior guard Donte Smith scored 14 consecutive points for USC in the second half of the victory over NAU on Dec. 11 after the Lumberjacks had cut the lead to three points. In Smith's second-half barrage was four three-pointers and a layup which put the game away. Smith scored a career-high 22 points in the game and made a career-best five three-pointers. He followed that up with 20 points in 20 minutes at Kansas on Dec. 18, also making five three-pointers and hitting six of eight shots overall. He was held to six points at Tennessee, but hit a big three-pointer at the end of the game. Smith is coming off the bench and averaging 9.6 points for USC, fifth-best on the team. He leads the team lead with 35 three-pointers made and leads the team with a 83.3 percent success rate from the free throw line. His pair of free throws with 10 seconds left clinched USC's 60-56 win vs. WSU on Dec. 31.
STEPHESON SHOWS TWO HANDS BETTER THAN ONE -- Senior Alex Stepheson scored six points, had three blocks and grabbed 13 rebounds in the season opener vs. UC Irvine on Nov. 13, but also suffered a fracture in his left hand. From that point until the game vs. UCLA on Jan. 9, he wore brace during games and for awhile a cast between games. In his first game having the use of both hands on Jan. 9, Stepheson had 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. He really adapted after the first five games and has averaged 12.4 points (136 total) and 10.5 rebounds (116 total) in the 11 games while hitting 58.0 percent of his shots (58-for-100). He has had a double-double in 6 of the last 11 games.
THE FONTAN FACTOR -- After sitting out nearly a season and a half following his transfer to USC from Fordham, guard Jio Fontan hasn't missed a beat, averaging 13.7 points, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals in his first six games, all against opponents with a winning record. During the six games, he ranks second on the team in assists (17), points (82), three-pointers made (9), minutes (204) and steals (8). USC has gone 6-2 in those games and held the opposition to a 37.4 shooting percentage (119-for-318) and 60.7 points per game (364 total).
FONTAN DEC. 20-26 PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK -- Guard Jio Fontan, who transfered to USC from Fordham last January and played in his first game for the Trojans on Dec. 18 at No. 3 Kansas, was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for Dec. 20-26. Fontan scored 13 points and had four assists and three steals in the win at Tennessee on Dec. 21 and scored 21 points with four assists and four steals in the win vs. Lehigh on Dec. 23. He averaged 17.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 steals in the two games.
DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 79 teams to 60 points or less in the last six seasons (181 games), including eight this season. The Trojans have held 11 teams this season (9-2) to 40 percent or less shooting from the field, 17 last season (13-4) and have held 97 teams (77-20) under 40 percent shooting in the last six seasons. USC held Sac. State to 23.0 percent shooting on Dec. 8, 2009 the lowest percentage by a Trojan opponent since LMU shot 22.4 percent from the field on Dec. 9, 1998. USC held it opponents in the 2009-10 season to a 38.4 shooting percentage, best in the Pac-10. USC's opponent low this season is 31.5 percent by Lehigh on Dec. 23.
DOUBLE TROUBLE - Forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson have teamed up to give the Trojans a strong presence in the paint, both offensively and defensively. Entering action this week, Vucevic leads the Pac-10 and is tied for 11th in the country with 9 double-doubles, while Stepheson is tied for second in the conference with 6 double-doubles. The tandem also ranks No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pac-10 in rebounding with Vucevic grabbing 9.6 and Stepheson 9.1 rebounds per game.
CLEANING THE GLASS -- USC has won the battle of the boards in 11 of 16 games this season and has outrebounded the opposition 561-521.
FRESHMAN JONES FITTING IN - Freshman Bryce Jones has been a key member of the USC team this season, initially as a starter for the first 10 games and now as a valuable reserve. He is averaging 8.4 points and 2.8 rebounds. Jones is second on the team in steals (20) and three-pointers made (19) and is third in assists (27). He has scored in double-figures seven times with a season high of 21 points on Nov. 21 vs. New Mexico State in Springfield, Mass.
ACTION JACKSON - Freshman forward Garrett Jackson suffered a fractured nose in preseason practice and eventually had it reset. As a result, Jackson began his college career behind a mask, wearing protective gear until the game at Nebraska on Nov. 27. With the mask removed, Jackson went 3-for-3 from the field and scored seven points in nine minutes. It wasn't really a big change for the freshman, who after adjusting to the college game and shooting with a mask on, has been one of the Trojans' top shooters. In his first 15 collegiate games, Jackson has hit 71.0 percent of his shots from the field (22-for-31).