Game Preview – USC


by: John Chase

USC enters this game with a miserable 6-17 record highlighted by a 1-8 conference record. If not for the miraculous blowout of Utah, USC would be 0-9 in conference and on an 11 game losing streak. Instead the Trojans enter Saturday’s game on a 1 loss streak, losing by 7 to WSU on the road. Not bad for a team with only 6 scholarship players available. Five different USC players have suffered season ending injuries, leaving USC heavily undermanned. Maurice Jones is so important to this team that USC Coach Kevin O’Neil stated before the season that “if Maurice Jones gets hurt, don’t come to our games.” Rough talk, but an honest statement. Maybe not one I would make publicly as a coach, but perhaps it needed to be said to fire up the team. Last week O’Neil was also quoted saying something about a van falling on his head would not be unexpected.

The Trojan line-up is overall, very short, but they do have 7-1 260lb James Blascyzk who is impressively size, but completely underwhelming in terms of skill and production. Out of the 8 players who took the court against WSU (remember, they have only 6 scholarship player), the tallest player outside of Blascyzk is 6-6 Garrett Jackson. Their guards vary in height from 5-7 Jones to 6-5 Byron Wesley. Jackson and Blascyzk are the only active players not listed as guards on the USC roster.

Maurice Jones is essentially the entirety of this team. He leads the in points (14.2), assists (3.4), steals (1.7), free throw percentage (technically he is second, but had 3 times the makes the the highest), and 3-pointer percentage (same thing, technically not first, but has made many more). If not for Aaron Fuller and the fact he is only 5-7, Jones would probably fight his way into first on the team in rebounding as well.

Aaron Fuller was the only other Trojan averaging double digit scoring, but suffered a shoulder injury resulting in season ending surgery. Fuller is joined by 7-footer Dwayne Dedmon, the most recent victim of a season ending injury, Jio Fontan (who was coming off a very successful junior season), Evan Smith, and Curtis Washington on the sidelines.

These injuries leave Byron Wesley as the next highest scorer and the highest active rebounder on the team with 7.6 points and 4.8 boards a game. Wesley is also second in assists (1.9), steals (.8), and turnovers (2.1). Wesley is only 1 of 7 from range and 21 of 43 from the foul line. Much like the rest of the USC squad, he is not an offensive threat despite his decent scoring average.

This image says all you really need to know about this year’s Trojan squad. In not one major offensive statistical category is USC ranked above 300. That is rough. Thank god the Trojan fans have football to look forward to.

The Trojans do one thing well: slow the ball down and play defense. The opposition has only scored more than 70 points in only 2 games this season. On the other side, the Trojans have only scored more than 70 one time in an 83 point explosion against TCU. The Trojans have been held to 50 or less points 9 times, including a season low of 36 against Cal Poly.

With all the injuries, USC loses nearly 20 points of their already disgustingly low 54 point average as well as 11 rebounds from their 28 board average. That is absolutely devastating no matter which way one looks at it.

It’s hard to know what this battle-worn USC team will bring to the table. Greg Allen has the potential to do a ton of damage as he showed against WSU when he dropped 17 on them, including a 5-11 performance from deep. On the other hand, Allen could be completely shut down. Allen did not play in 6 games this season and tallied 0 points on 8 separate occasions. He has only reached double digits three times this season. Out of everyone on the team, Allen’s 3-pointer has the best chance of catching fire. Allen is only 6-3 180lb and is thus a favorable match-up for guys like Terrence Ross or Tony Wroten.

Starting Line-Up Predictions:

Maurice Jones 5-7 155lb
Alexis Moore 6-2 180lb
Byron Wesley 6-5 210lb
Garrett Jackson 6-6 225lb
James Blascyzk 7-1 260lb

Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
Tony Wroten 6-5 205lb
Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
Darnell Gant 6-8 230lb (I think he replaces Simmons who has been slow as of late)
Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb

Keys to the Game:

  • Control the Pace – The Trojans will look to slow the game down to the point that their malignant offense can stand a chance. They will do this by using up the clock, pulling guys back on free throws, and clogging the middle with a zone defense. I’m sure many Husky fans recall this last season and, personally, this is the worst type of basketball in the world. The shot clock was introduced because guys like Kevin O’Neil play sloooooowwwwww basketball. I love the fast paced style that the Huskies thrive on. It is exciting and produces highlight reel plays every night.
  • Free Throws – In slow paced games, every point counts. The Huskies continue to struggle as a whole to convert shots at the line. We need to get guys like Ross, Wilcox, and dare I say it, Wroten to the line. They have converted the highest percentage of freebies as of late. N’Diaye needs to do some work on his shot to get to the level of free throw shooting that makes fouling him a poor choice versus a decent choice.
  • Get Hot From the Start – If the Huskies can get a lead early in this game, the lack of bench for USC will prove to be the death of them. The problem is that the Huskies have been a second half team this season and have not been successful in getting their scoring going until they have started shooting on the opposite side they started from. Maybe the view is nicer on one side than the other. Whatever it is, it has to change and the Dawgs need to figure out how to put together a full 40 minutes of play. The Trojans are not a team that will be dropping 70-80 points, nor do they normally allow more than 70. Even Kansas, ranked 11 the time, was only able to put up 63 on the Trojans.

Final Thoughts:

This is a game the Dawgs should not struggle with but the Huskies have been unpredictable. Coming off back-to-back emotional wins against Arizona and UCLA has the Dawgs feeling high and mighty and they cannot let this go to their heads and fall apart by playing down to USC’s level. This win is monumental in continuing our charge towards the league title and an at-large bid, should the Dawgs fall in the post season tournament. We have a chance to go 16-2, but it all hinges on playing this type of basketball the rest of the season. By this I mean the final 4 minutes where the Bruins only scored 4 more point. Tough defense, hardcore offense, and a strong, collective team effort.

Go Dawgs!