USC Returns Home To Face Sacramento State On Tuesday
Dec. 7, 2009
The USC Trojans (2-4) will face the Sacramento State Hornets (4-5) on Dec. 8 in the Galen Center at 7:30 p.m. USC has lost three consecutive games, matching last season's longest losing streak done twice in a 22-13 campaign. The game will be broadcast live on USCTrojans.com. It will also air live on USC radio flagship station ESPN Radio 710 AM with Rory Markas and Jim Hefner calling the action.
SCOUTING THE HORNETS -- The Hornets (4-5) are coming off an 80-65 home loss to Weber State on Dec. 5. They already have surpassed their win total of last season (2-27), including knocking off the Pac-10's Oregon State 65-63 in Corvallis, Ore. The Hornets returned six lettermen, including three starters from last season. Leading the way for Sacramento State through nine games in scoring are Sultan Toles-Bey (12.4) and John Dickson (10.8). USC leads the all-time series 4-0, winning the last meeting 79-40 on Nov. 16, 1997.
TROJANS STUNG BY YELLOW JACKETS -- USC fell behind 19-0 and never recovered in losing 79-53 at Georgia Tech on Dec. 5. The Trojans, after starting 0-for-8 from the field, then got hot hitting 11 of its next 15 shots to cut it to 29-26 with four minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately for USC, the Yellow Jackets responded with an 11-0 run to end the first half and a 13-4 spurt to start the second half to put the game away. Alex Stepheson led USC with a career-high 22 points.
ON DECK -- The Idaho State Bengals are 2-6 with a game vs. Boise State before facing USC at the Galen Center on Dec. 11. ISU was 13-19 last season, but return 4 starters and 8 lettermen. They have wins this season vs. Colorado Christian and at UMKC. ISU's leading scorers through 8 games are Amorrow Morgan (15.5), Broderick Gilchrest (12.3) and Demetrius Monroe (11.5). USC leads the all-time series 4-0, winning the last meeting 77-68 on Nov. 28, 1980.
TROJANS HIT THE ROAD, THE ROAD HIT BACK -- USC went 0-2 at nationally ranked Texas and Georgia Tech in its first road trip of the season. The Trojans committed 36 turnovers in the two games, shot 34.7 percent from the field (43-for-124) and 9.1 percent from three-point range (2-for-22), but they did outrebound the opposition 83-74 even though both teams had a 10-rebound per game advantage over their opponents coming in. Dating back to last season when USC was 2-8 on the road, the Trojans have dropped their last seven road contests.
AS RUST SHAKES OFF, STEPHESON SHINES -- Alex Stepheson showed signs he is shaking off the rust of more than a year away from game action, as he scored a career-high 22 points at Georgia Tech on Dec. 5. He also had a block, was 8-for-8 from the FT line and had a team-high 7 rebounds. He played in his first game as a Trojan on Nov. 27 vs. Coppin State and had 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and swatted a layup attempt to near midcourt. He registered his first career double-double on Nov. 29 vs. Nebraska with 13 points and a career-best 12 rebounds. In his first four games, he has averaged 12.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks a game. Stepheson had to sit on the sidelines for the last year and two games upon transferring from UNC (transfer waiver denied by the NCAA) and then suffering a left knee injury.
WE'VE SEEN THIS BEFORE -- USC has 93 turnovers through 6 games this season (15.5 per game). Last year USC had 88 through the first six games. That team averaged 16.8 turnovers in the first 12 games, before averaging 12.4 over the final 23 contests.
NIKOLA THE NATURAL -- Sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic set career highs in points (19) and rebounds (11) for his first career double-double vs. LMU on Nov. 21. He followed that game up with a new career-high in rebounds with 12 and scored 15 points vs. CSU on Nov. 27 for his second double-double. On Dec. 3 at Texas he notched his third double-double with 18 points and a new career-high in rebounds of 14. Through six games he is averaging 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, after averaging 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman last season. His 10.3 rebounds per game leads all Pac-10 players.
JOHNSON A SENIOR AGAIN -- USC redshirt senior guard/forward Marcus Johnson, who transfered to USC from UConn last year and had to sit out the first semester, stepped in an had an immediate impact for the Trojans in the final semester last season. Since then, he was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, but had to sit out the first two games of this season due to playing in an exhibition game at UConn in 2007-08. In his first game on Nov. 27 vs. CSU, Johnson had 11 points, three rebounds and a steal. He then had 10 points and 5 rebounds vs. Nebraska on Nov. 29. USC is 14-7 in games he has been available to play in the last two seasons. Johnson leads USC with 10 steals, despite only playing in four games.
SIMMONS' SUMMER SHOOTING SPREE -- Junior guard Marcus Simmons has averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in USC's first six games. He developed into USC's defensive stopper late last season and spent the summer working on his offense, including shooting until he made 1,000 shots a day...that is until his wrist started hurting and he had to back off some. It seems to have worked, though, as he is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.
SMITH STEPPING UP -- Junior guard Donte Smith has averaged 8.5 points through USC's first six games and has made 43.9 percent of his shots. He also leads the team with 10 three-pointers made 910-for-25, 40.0 percent) and has made just two fewer three-pointers than he had all last season. In the game vs. Nebraska on Nov. 29, Smith was 4-for-4 from the field, including hitting two three-pointers.
THE DWIGHT STUFF -- Senior Dwight Lewis has scored 1,111 career points, good for 26th all-time at USC, 5 points behind Jaha Wilson (1994-97) who is in 25th place and 16 behind Don Carfino (1977-80) who is in 24th place. Lewis entered the season fifth among returning Pac-10 players in career points. He also ranks 15th on USC's all-time three-point baskets list with 111 which ranks eighth among returning conference players. Lewis led USC with a 14.4 scoring average in 2008-09, as well in three-point baskets (55) and free throw shooting (74.8 percent). He reached double figures in scoring in 27 of his 33 games last season, scoring a career-high 26 twice (vs. San Francisco on Dec. 1 and at Oregon on Jan. 2). He scored 22 points in his first game this season and has had 10 career 20-point games.
DRIVEN BY DEFENSE -- USC has held 55 teams to 60 points or less in the last five seasons (141 games), including two this season. The Trojans held 17 of their opponents last season to 39.2 percent shooting or less, and have held 70 teams under 40 percent shooting in the last 141 games. USC was outshot from the field just nine times last season and three times so far this season (Nebraska, Texas & GT). USC has had a better shooting percentage that its opponent in 88 of the last 111 games.
WINNING THE BOARD GAMES -- USC outrebounded the opposition last season in its first 11 games before being beaten on the glass 34-32 by ORU on Dec. 29 and had a rebounding edge in 27 of 35 games. USC is 4-1-1 in the rebound battle this season and outrebounded Coppin State, Nebraska, Texas and Georgia Tech in the last four games 162-121.