USC Preview

The Arizona State Sun Devils bring their #17 ranking with them to southern California to take on the USC Trojans on Thursday night. After a convincing sweep at home over the Oregon schools in which the Devils gave up just 96 points combined, the Sun Devils are tied for 2nd in Pac-10 play behind the upstart Cal Bears.

USC comes in having lost two straight ballgames and after being a preseason pick to potentially contend for the Pac-10 title, Tim Floyd and his gang can't afford anymore slip-ups.

The dominant weekend at home for the Devils started with a 59-38 beat down of the Oregon State Beavers, a team coming off a win at home over USC. Led by James Harden's 15 points and a defensive effort that ranks as ASU's best ever in Pac-10 play, the Devils won in style. The weekend was capped off with a 74-56 pasting of the Oregon Ducks and the total team effort that was displayed was a nice touch. Derek Glasser had 14 points and 11 assists while Jamelle McMillan and Eric Boateng were effective off the bench.

USC has had a tough few weeks: losing in Corvallis to give Oregon State their first Pac-10 win since 2007 was a gut check and then to lose a well fought battle at home to their cross-town rival, UCLA only added to the misery. This is not brand new territory for the Trojans though as they were in even worse shape last year at this time, starting 0-3 in Pac-10 play, only to play their way well into March.

Head Coach – Tim Floyd

Projected Starters

G – Daniel Hackett – (11.1 PPG, 5.7 APG)
G – Dwight Lewis – (15.3 PPG, 39% 3PT)
F – Demar Derozan – (12.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG)
F – Marcus Johnson – (5.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
C – Taj Gibson – (15.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Donte Smith
F – Keith Wilkinson
F – Leonard Washington (Out with high-ankle sprain)

Backcourt

Daniel Hackett is a strong, athletic point guard that can score from anywhere and make things happen. Dwight Lewis and Demar Derozan are great scoring threats that have a tendency to be streaky. ASU's defense is prone to giving open looks and if Lewis can capitalize, he will be a thorn in the side all night long. Derozan will likely be assigned to defend James Harden and it will be an interesting matchup to watch. Hackett is going to be the one calling the shots and as long as Glasser can contain him and make him give it up, it will help ASU's cause.

For the Sun Devils, the usual trio of Glasser, Harden, and Ty Abbott will get the nod. Glasser is coming off a career game and will be playing against the school he originally committed to. Harden will be the go-to guy once again and the real key to the game will be Abbott; really quiet offensively in Pac-10 play, he needs to step up and take some heat off of everyone else.

Edge – ASU

Frontcourt

With exception to Washington's Jon Brockman, this game will match two of the best big men in the Pac-10 together. Taj Gibson has been a man among boys all season averaging a double-double. Gibson, like Jeff Pendergraph for ASU, is a vocal leader and a force to be reckoned with on the court. Also similar to Pendergraph, Gibson's tendency to get into foul trouble early has been a chore for Tim Floyd to deal with. Marcus Johnson will get the nod alongside him for the Trojans. Usual starter Leonard Washington is out with a high-ankle sprain.

For the Devils, it's Pendergraph and Rihards Kuksiks. Pendergraph has been a consistent force all season long but has not played anyone like Gibson up to this point. The one thing to watch in this battle is to see who goes to the bench with foul trouble first: Gibson or Pendergraph? Whichever one plays the most minutes will likely be on the winning side.

Edge - USC

Bench

The Trojans and Sun Devils have both relied on their starting lineups to produce almost all of their results up to this point. USC gets good minutes out of Donte Lewis and Keith Wilkinson but don't get much deeper than that. The Devils reserves have been solid in the last couple games but it remains to be seen if that will carry out for the remainder of the year. If foul trouble dictates momentum, look for Eric Boateng to play a pivotal role in this ballgame, especially against a stout opponent as Gibson.

Edge – Even

Final Score – ASU 71 USC 69

Sun Devil Source Top Stories