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February 21, 2008

Hoops weekend preview

The Trojans gave a valiant effort against UCLA, but they were too thin, and could not survive poor performances by O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson. USC stands at 6-6 in Pac-10 play, and this week is crucial. The Trojans are not a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but will likely get there with a 9-9 record. That means that they need to win three of their last six, and with a road trip next week and an excellent Stanford team coming to the Galen Center, it won't be easy. It starts on Thursday night against Oregon, and culminates at home against OSU.

What Happened In The First Meeting With The Ducks

The Trojans shot extremely well and dominated the first 38 minutes of the game, only to see the game go to overtime after some timely threes went down for the Ducks and some free throws wouldn't for SC. But the Trojans came up big in overtime despite the cramping of three starters, making five three point shots. The Trojans won it 95-86, and the heroes were Mayo (25 points, eight rebounds), Daniel Hackett (26 points, six assists, six rebounds), and Dwight Lewis (24 points). Malik Hairston led the Ducks with 21 points.

What The Ducks Have Done Since

As usual, Oregon has been an up and down team. They whipped Oregon State at home, but then they got trounced by Stanford on the road. They bounced back with a blowout win over Cal in Berkeley and then some revenge at home against Washington. They lost their last game at home against the Cougars though. The common thread in the wins: good three point shooting. They shot 55% in the three wins, and 23% in the two losses.

The Match-up

1. The first game featured a tale of two halves. Neither team shot very well in the first half, and the Trojans ground out a five point lead as the Ducks struggled from the field, making 29% from the field and 21% from behind the arc. The second half was an explosion as the Ducks shot 55% percent, and the Trojans were a scorching 77% from the field. In truth, USC dominated the game with the exception of a very shot period at the end of the second half, when they squandered a double digit lead.

2. Oregon's biggest problem is that they don't defend, and they have never been a good defensive team under Ernie Kent. The Trojan guards dominated the game, outscoring their Duck counterparts 75-54. Taj Gibson drew a lot of attention, and USC capitalized.

3. As usual, the Trojans gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, 17 in all. Yet the Ducks only scored the Trojans 13-9 in second chance points despite getting 11 more offensive rebounds than SC.

4. One big key for USC was that they didn't turn the ball over, surrendering it only nine times. That was huge, because the Ducks don't cough it up much, and they only had ten in the first contest.

The Trojans have an advantage because Tim Floyd's teams have consistently carved up the defenses of Ernie Kent. I don't expect that to change. It will be harder to dominate with Hackett's steadying influence, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a close game because of the turnovers created by Oregon. But in the end, Oregon is going to have to make threes to win the game, and the Trojans defend too well to let it happen, and the Ducks don't defend well enough. USC guts out a close one.

Trojans-78, Ducks-74

What Happened In The First Meeting With The Beavers

USC stuck it to OSU, winning 68-44. It wasn't always a thing of beauty on offense, but the Beavers were pathetic from the field, and after briefly making a game of it at the end of the first half, they folded in the second. Mayo had 19 points, Jefferson added 18, and Gibson tacked on 14 in the win.

What The Beavers Have Done Since

Same thing they were doing before: losing in ugly fashion. Oregon State has yet to win a conference game, and have only been within single digits of a conference opponent twice: a nine point loss to Washington, and a five point loss at Cal. The latter game happened after the first battle with SC, and UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Washington State, and Washington have since put beatdowns on the Beavs. OSU lost their last game to the Huskies by 38 at home. They've packed it in.

The Match-up

1. The Trojans fumbled around offensively in the first half in meeting #1, and that blasted the Beavers with 57% shooting in the second half. Meanwhile OSU went from bad (36 percent in the first half) to worse (22% in the second). Oregon State just doesn't have a guy that worried you when it comes to putting the ball in the hole. Only Lathen Wallace scored in double digits for the Beavs.

2. Again, the Trojans surrendered a large amount of offensive rebounds with 14, but when the other team misses 47 shots, they're going to get some offensive rebounds. To illustrate that, USC had a season high 34 defensive rebounds. In most game, the team doesn't even get 34 total rebounds.

3. Oregon State made a run at the end of the first half with some timely three point shooting, but then they disappeared for the rest of the night, making only one three point shot on eight tries in the second half. USC's free throw woes in the first half (4-11) made the game close early.

There's not much too this one. The Beavers are terrible. They can't shoot, they can't defend, and they don't rebound. They turn the ball over, and their free throw shooting is terrible. They don't have a guy who can stretch the floor from deep, nor do they have a guy who suck the defense in down low. The Trojans will win this one easily even without Hackett.

Trojans-73, Beavers-55

Questions, comments, or info? Contact me at tvenegas@comcast.net


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