USC Preview

Coming off one of its biggest victories in recent memory, a 74-67 victory over UCLA, the Arizona State Sun Devils (19-5, 8-4) face another stiff challenge at home against the USC Trojans (15-8, 6-5) on Sunday night at Wells Fargo Arena in a game with heightened implications for the Pac-10 title.

With ESPN showing the game across the country, the Sun Devils pieced together one of their finest performances of the season to complete the regular season sweep of the Bruins.

Led by a balanced attack that featured four players in double figures, Derek Glasser had 15 points including a clutch three with a little over a minute remaining while James Harden had 15 points and a career-high 11 assists. The Bruins were led by Josh Shipp with 16 points while Darren Collison and Michael Roll each poured in 15.

Thursday night was not as kind to the USC Trojans as they lost in a shootout down in Tucson, 83-76 to the Arizona Wildcats. After getting down as much as 18 in the first half, the Trojans fought back and actually took the lead for a bit before UofA pulled it out in the end.

Dwight Lewis led USC with 21 while DeMar Derozan and Daniel Hackett scored 20 apiece. Unfortunately, the Trojans couldn't stop the Wildcats on defense as Arizona shot 60 percent from the field and made 12 three-pointers. Leading the Cats in a big way were Nic Wise and Chase Budinger with 27 and 25 respectively.

Head Coach – Tim Floyd

Projected Starters

G – Daniel Hackett – (11.6 PPG, 5.0 APG)
G – Dwight Lewis – (15.7 PPG, 40% 3PT)
G – DeMar Derozan – (12.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
F – Leonard Washington – (7.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG)
F – Taj Gibson – (14.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG)

Impact Reserves


G – Donte Smith
F – Marcus Johnson
F – Keith Wilkinson

Recent Matchups

DeMar Derozan scored a career-high 22 points and Daniel Hackett shut down James Harden as USC toppled ASU 61-49 at the Galen Center. It was a painful game for ASU as they shot just 34 percent overall and just 60% from the free-throw line while uncharacteristically turning the ball over 15 times. Rihards Kuksiks led the Devils in scoring with 16 while Jeff Pendergraph and Derek Glasser each had 13 but the Sun Devils were dominated in the second half, getting outscored 42-23 in the game's final 20 minutes.

Key Stat

Zero. That's how many field goals James Harden had against USC in their previous contest. Scoring just four points, all from the free-throw line, Harden's lack of impact was the primary reason the Trojans were able to upset the Devils. Daniel Hackett was Harden's shadow all night long and it worked well. Harden will need to get to the basket for the Devils to succeed.

When the Trojans have the ball

Supremely athletic and notoriously streaky, the USC offense has been hit or miss all season. In the backcourt, Dwight Lewis is a good scorer that has always shot well against ASU's zone defense and DeMar Derozan had a breakout game against the Devils and can score from anywhere on the court.

Hackett is a hard-worker on both ends and is the team's bona fide leader, and as the Sun devils found out a stout defender. Down low for USC, Leonard Washington is a bruiser that does the little things well while Taj Gibson averages nearly a double-double and is a very physical player. The Trojans aren't a deep squad but Keith Wilkinson and Marcus Johnson will get some minutes in relief.

When the Sun Devils have the ball

When ASU has the type of offensive balance they displayed against UCLA, they are nearly unbeatable. However, that hasn't happened too often in recent weeks so it's difficult to tell whether that will be the norm from here on out or just an aberration.

Either way, it was fun to watch. Glasser and Harden were fantastic but the real story was Ty Abbott. After struggling mightily in conference play, Abbott broke out of his slump in a big way with 12 points coming off the bench. Down on the post, Rihards Kuksiks did a great job stretching out the defense with 14 points while Jeff Pendergraph also scored 14 points capped off by a gorgeous alley-oop to seal the deal. The senior also had one of his best games rebounding, corralling nine caroms.

X-Factor

I paged Ty Abbott last game and it worked (you're welcome). And I'm going to do it again this game! Abbott was left alone and made the Bruins pay and he will need to keep it up against the Trojans. In his last game against USC, he was held scoreless, missing all three shots he took. Simply put, he needs to punish teams for doubling up on Harden.

Who will win and why?

Both teams need this win for different reasons. USC needs this win because they can ill afford getting swept because it will make a tournament run that much tougher. ASU needs this win to prove they are an elite team and ready to battle it out for the Pac-10 crown. I've got a good feeling the Sun Devils will shoot a lot better this time around and Harden will make adjustments and lead the Devils to the win.

Final Score – Arizona State 68 – USC 58


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