Scouting Report: USC

The Cats head to LA with a chance to pull away from the Pac. Arizona is 4-0 and a sweep would solidify their claim as the team to beat. That's easier said than done. Although both of the LA schools are struggling, the Cats are only 9-11 in Los Angeles over the past 10 years.

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No. 2 Arizona (11-1, 4-0) at USC (6-5, 2-1)
Date: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003
Time: 7:30 p.m. PST
Location: Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (16,161), Los Angeles, Calif.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: FoxSportsNet (Steve Physioc/Marques Johnson)

LAST MEETING: The Cats beat the Trojans 81-71 to win the Pac-10 Tournament. The Cats rallied from a 13-point first half deficit. Salim Stoudamire had the best game of his career, scoring 29-points in the win.

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona beat Washington 79-61 behind Stoudamire's 23-points. USC fell to Penn 99-61.

BACKCOURT: The Trojans are very athletic and it starts in the backcourt. The Trojans resemble Washington, but with a lot more talent. USC will likely go with a three-guard line-up with Derrick Craven at the point guard spot. Derrick Craven has done an admirable job of replacing Brandon Granville. Derrick Craven is a terrific ball handler who has seen his minutes increase as of late. He took over a starting spot against Missouri and has not relinquished it. He's not dishing out a lot of assists, but he keeps things moving for the offense.

"Derrick (Craven) does a nice job of running the point for them," Olson said.

His twin brother Errick Craven is the better scorer of the two and despite playing the two, passes pretty well. Errick is a good outside shooter who has hit 40% of his three-point shots. He's the team's second leading scorer as well as their second leading rebounder.

"The Craven twins both take the ball to the basket very well," Olson noted. "Errick (Craven) is a better perimeter shooter than Derrick."

Desmon Farmer should be the third starter on the backcourt. The 6-4 swingman is the team's leading scorer and could prove to be a difficult match-up for the Wildcats. Luke Walton will get the call to start the game, but don't be surprised to see Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala also get a crack at the savvy junior.

JC transfer Brandon Brooks was a key contributor, but dislocated his ankle in practice and is likely out for the season. The Trojans will miss his passing skills and ability to get his teammates involved.

"Brandon is a valuable part of this team and will be missed," Henry Bibby said. "We're hoping for the best for him. This definitely puts more pressure on the point guard spot. The rest of the guys on the team will have to pick up the slack."

The Trojans did get some good news on the injury front. Point guard Robert Hutchinson returned against Penn after missing several games with an ankle injury of his own. He is a solid, experienced guard off the bench.

The last time the Cats played USC Salim Stoudamire went off. He scored 29 points and got the best of the Trojan guards. He played AAU basketball with the Craven's and wants to keep the momentum in this rivalry.

Jason Gardner has been running the offense really well, racking up the assists. He's still trying to get his shot back on track, but LA is as good a place as any to pull out of the slump.

FRONTCOURT: The Trojans are thin on the frontcourt. Rory O'Neil has assumed the starting job at center and provides a difficult match-up for plodding big men. O'Neil is on the thin side, but has good footwork and can step out and shoot.

"(Rory) O'Neil has been shooting the ball well and the thing is that he's a good face-up shooter like Rick Anderson is," Olson said. "So it's not just a back-to-the-basket thing he does, you have to guard him out on the floor."

Nick Curtis should start alongside O'Neil. Curtis is active on the boards, averaging over four offensive rebounds a game. He gets a ton of points off of put backs, so the Cats will have to do a good job of rebounding. He's also a defensive presence, leading the team in blocks and just one steal off the team lead.

Either Jonathan Oliver or Kostas Charissis will come off the bench to spell the post players. Charissis began the season as a starter, but has seen his minutes diminish. Oliver has gotten inconsistent minutes, some games he garners as many 17 minutes, while others he barely plays five.

OUTLOOK: The Trojans are down, but still have a number of talented athletes. Bibby's substitution pattern is always a mystery, but he has a number of athletic players he can send into the game. The Cats are vastly superior to the Trojans, but playing in Los Angeles is never easy. Expect the Cats to win, but not by as many as some are expecting.

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