USC To Host No. 10 Arizona On Thursday
Feb. 22, 2011
The USC Trojans (15-12, 7-7) will host the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats (23-4, 12-2) at the Galen Center on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. USC has won three of its last four games and is looking for its first three-game winning streak of the season. The game will be shown live nationally on FCS Pacific and in Tucson, Ariz. on KWBA-TV and tape delayed at 10:30 p.m. on Prime Ticket and USCTrojans.com.
BREAKING DOWN THE WILDCATS -- The Pac-10 leading Wildcats have won eight consecutive games and are led by sophomore Derrick Williams who is averaging 19.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Arizona leads the conference with a 48.0 shooting percentage from the field and 41.1 percent from three-point range. Arizona defeated USC 82-73 in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 29. USC is 4-1 in its last 5 home games with Arizona, with the Wildcats' win in 2008 later vacated due to NCAA penalty. Arizona leads the all-time series 56-39 with one win for each team vacated in 2008 due to NCAA penalty.
USC COMPLETES BAY AREA SWEEP WITH WIN AT STANFORD -- USC defeated Stanford 69-53 at Palo Alto, Calif. on Feb. 19 to win at Maples Pavilion for the first time in nine games and to complete a road sweep of Cal and Stanford for the first time since the 1992 season. USC trailed by four points early in the game at 12-8, but used a 22-4 run mid-first half to take command of the game. Nikola Vucevic led USC with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Alex Stepheson (15), Donte Smith (13) and Maurice Jones (10) all scored in double figures. USC held Stanford to 33.3 percent shooting, while hitting 53.2 percent of its own shots.
ARIZONA STATE ON DECK -- USC's next game will be vs. Arizona State (10-16, 2-12) on Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the Galen Center. USC won 63-61 at ASU on Jan. 27 behind Nikola Vucevic's 26 points and 12 rebounds. USC has won 11 of its last 16 games with the Sun Devils and leads the all-time series 50-33 (2 wins in 2008 later vacated due to NCAA penalty). Sophomore Trent Lockett at 13.9 points per game and senior Ty Abbott at 13.0 points per game lead ASU in scoring. The Sun Devils will play at UCLA on Feb. 24 before facing USC.
TROJANS TOPS IN DEFENSE -- USC has held the opposition to 63.0 points per game, the fewest allowed per game among conference teams. USC also ranks second in the league in field goal defense at 41.1 percent. USC is 10-0 when it holds the opponent to less than 60 points.
FEELING THE "MOJO" -- USC freshman Maurice Jones has 60 steals this season, ninth on the Pac-10 all-time freshman single-season steals list. Earl Watson (UCLA, 1998) is 8th with 64. Jones also ranks second all-time by a USC freshman behind Errick Craven's 68. Jones also ranks on several other USC freshman top 10 lists: assists (7th, 100), 3-point baskets (8th, 33) and free throws made (10th, 61).
USC WEATHERING THE STORM -- Despite three players leaving early to play professionally and virtually the entire recruiting class leaving before he could coach a game, USC head coach Kevin O'Neill has kept the Trojans highly competitive in 2010 and 2011. USC was in the thick of the 2010 Pac-10 title race until the final weeks of the season, despite taking a postseason ban. USC lost 4 of our Top 6 scorers from last year's 16-win team and has had to overcome the cumulative loss of 12 players in a one year span. USC was one scholarship down both last season and this, yet has gone a composite 31-26 in O'Neill's first 57 games while playing one of the tougher schedules in the country, including posting a 4-3 record vs. ranked teams. Coach O'Neill was able to bridge the gap which created a one-man sophomore scholarship class of Evan Smith (out all season due to injury), by bringing in transfers Jio Fontan this season and Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon next season. In addition, USC has a top 10-ranked 2011 recruiting class according to Hoopscooponline.com.
USC NEARLY UNBEATABLE... -- ...when holding the opposition to under 40 percent shooting from the field. USC is 11-1 this season when the opposition shoots under 40 percent (only loss at Kansas - .389). California made 43.1 percent of its shots in USC's win on Feb. 17, just the fourth time this season the Trojans have won when allowing 40 percent or more shooting by the opposition (4-11).
IT'S SIMPLE REALLY... - USC is 13-2 when posting a better shooting percentage than the opposition and 11-4 when getting more or as many rebounds.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES - USC is 3-7 in games played on Saturday and 1-3 in Wednesday games. The Trojans are a combined 11-2 in games played on other days of the week.
USC MAY BE TURNING THE CORNER ON THE ROAD - USC's win at ASU on Jan. 27 snapped a five-game losing streak in Pac-10 road games. The wins at Cal on Feb. 17 and at Stanford on Feb. 19 pushed USC to 3-2 in its last five Pac-10 road contests. The USC win at Tennessee on Dec. 21 snapped a six-game road losing streak dating back to last season.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD -- Seven of the 11 games USC has played on the road this season have been decided by 6 points or less (L by 2 at Nebraska, L by 2 at Kansas, W by 1 at Tennessee, L by 6 at Oregon, L by 4 at Oregon State, W by 2 at ASU and W by 3 at Cal).
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 169 shots from beyond the arc and rank sixth in that category. Donte Smith leads the way with 61 (T-3rd in the conference and 18 more than last year's Trojan leader Dwight Lewis - 43), followed by Maurice Jones with 33 and Nikola Vucevic with 24. As a team, USC had made 36.6 percent of its three-point shots, third in the conference. USC hit just 29.7 percent from long-range last season.
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 10.1 points per game and second with 33 three-pointers made, fourth with 2.6 rebounds per game and leads USC with 100 assists and 60 steals. Jones leads all Pac-10 players by averaging 35.8 minutes per game and is second in steals and tied for fifth in assists. Jones has scored in double-figures 13 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 19 games, Jones has 68 assists and 33 turnovers, while making 43 steals. Jones posted a season high of 6 steals at ASU on Jan 27. Jones' 60 steals are the most by a Trojan since Errick Craven had 62 steals during the 2004 season. Jones ranks 22nd in the country and third among freshmen with an average of 2.2 steals per game.
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 27 games, Vucevic leads USC with 17.1 points and 10.2 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 (276) and defensive rebounds (194), ranks second in minutes per game (34.6), fourth in blocked shots (37) and third in scoring (17.1 ppg). Vucevic has demonstrated an all-around game for USC, leading the team in points, blocks and rebounds, ranking second in free throw percentage (.740), tied for third in assists (44) and ranking third in three-pointers made (24). Vucevic has had 10 20-point games and 16 double-doubles this 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. Simmons has started USC's first 27 games and averaged 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds. He matched a season and career high with eight rebounds vs. Stanford on Jan. 20. Simmons had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists at Cal on Feb. 17.
DONTE'S INFERNO -- Senior guard Donte Smith torched the nets by making 8 of 12 three-point attempts and finishing with a career-high 24 points, 12 straight in the second half (4 consecutive 3-pointers), on Jan. 22 vs. California. The 8 three-pointers made were the second-most in school history. Anthony Pendleton holds the school record with 9 three-point baskets on Dec. 9, 1987. Smith has made at least one shot from beyond the arc in all but two games this season and ranks T-third in the Pac-10 with 61 long-range makes. Smith now has 93 three-point baskets in his Trojan career, ranking 18th on USC's all-time list, two behind Nick Young. Against NAU on Dec. 11, 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 then career-high 22 points in the game and made a then 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 10.2 points for USC, second-best on the team. He leads the team lead with 61 three-pointers made and leads the team with a 85.7 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 and followed that up with 9 points and 8 rebounds at Oregon on Jan. 13. He really adapted after the first five games of the season and has averaged 10.6 points (234 total) and 9.4 rebounds (206 total) in the 22 games, with eight double-doubles. Stepheson has had at least 8 rebounds in 17 of the last 22 games. Stepheson ranks second in rebounds per game (8.7), sixth in blocks (31), ninth in minutes per game (32.7) and eighth in field goal percentage (.551) among conference players. Stepheson scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Bay Area sweep of Cal and Stanford.
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 9.8 points, 3.8 assists in his first 17 games. During the 17 games, he leads the team in assists (65), is fourth in points (166), third in three-pointers made (15), fourth in minutes (519) and second in steals (12).
DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 82 teams to 60 points or less in the last six seasons (190 games), including 11 this season. The Trojans have held 13 teams this season (11-2) to 40 percent or less shooting from the field, 17 last season (13-4) and have held 99 teams (79-20) under 40 percent shooting in the last six seasons. USC held Stanford to 22.2 percent shooting on Jan. 20, the lowest percentage by a Trojan opponent in at least the last 30 seasons. USC held it opponents in the 2009-10 season to a 38.4 shooting percentage, best in the Pac-10. USC currently ranks second in the Pac-10 by holding the opposition to a 41.1 percent from the floor.
TROJANS BOAST TOP TANDEM - Forwards Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson have teamed up to give the Trojans a strong presence in the paint, both offensively and defensively. Vucevic leads the Pac-10 and is tied for 8th in the country with 16 double-doubles, while Stepheson is tied for third in the conference with 8 double-doubles. The tandem also ranks No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pac-10 in rebounding with Vucevic grabbing 10.1 and Stepheson 8.7 rebounds per game. Through games of Feb. 17, Vucevic (T-16th) and Stepheson (47th) were the only pair of teammates in the country in the top 50 in rebounding.