Date: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2003
Time: 11:30 p.m. MST
Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls)
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LAST MEETING: Arizona escaped the Sports Arena with an 81-72 win that was much closer than the score indicated.
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. He's 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," Lute Olson said.
Derrick Craven was not much of a factor the first time out against Arizona. He scored just two points, but dished out four assists and gathered in four rebounds.
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, not bad for a player who is 6-2.
"The Craven twins both take the ball to the basket very well," Olson noted. "Errick (Craven) is a better perimeter shooter than Derrick."
Errick had a great game against Arizona at the Sports Arena. He scored 21 points and hit the boards hard, collecting five rebounds. He was able to slash to the hole and get good looks at the basket.
Desmon Farmer is the third starter in 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. Farmer torched the Cats in the first outting, but was limited in the second half by a great defensive effort from Iguodala.
The Trojans will most likely use Robert Hutchison and Jerry Dupree off the bench. Hutchison is a point guard who will spell the Cravens. Dupree gives the Trojans a much bigger, aggressive player at the three. Dupree has had some great games against the Wildcats and is back in the good graces of Henry Bibby.
Salim Stoudamire had great success against USC last season, and had a solid outing in LA. The sophomore scored 13 points and played a very steady game when subbing for Jason Gardner at the point.
Gardner struggled in LA, a place he's had a lot of success on three previous visits. The Trojans concentrated on stopping Gardner and held him to just five points.
Chris Rodgers and Adams should see a lot of minutes. Both match up well with the speedy Trojan guards.
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.
"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."
Last time out O'Neal was saddled with foul trouble before scoring 10 in the second half. O'Neal did a good job of finding his shot away from the basket, taking the Wildcat big men away from the paint.
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 keeping Curtis off the offensive glass. Curtis is also a defensive presence, leading the team in blocks and just one steal off the team lead.
Football player Greg Guenther has been playing more and more minutes and he has actually started a few games in place of Curtis. He gives them a big body and can pound down low.
Either Jonathan Oliver or Kostas Charissis will come off the bench to spell the post players. Bibby uses the two like chess pieces. Charissis will log minutes one game and Oliver another based on match-ups.
OUTLOOK: USC is a mystery. They blow out UNLV by 25 and then lose the next time out by 30. The Trojans have a lot of athleticism, but lack enough basketball player skills. The Wildcats had a great game against UCLA, but have yet to play two solid games back-to-back. This one is on CBS, so we'll see if the Cats can serve notice to the nation or just scrape by. Arizona had better not look past the Trojans. USC is an inferior team, but they have the talent to play with a sleepwalking Arizona team. You know Henry Bibby would love to knock off the Cats once again.
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