Los Angeles, Calif. -- Memorial Sports Arena (16,161)
10:30 p.m. (EST), FSN
"This is a big game for us. This could really put us on the map." -- Nick Young
"If we can leave with a win, I don't care if I have scored zero points. If we win [this] game, that will be one memory I can put in my book to remember for the rest of my life." -- Lodrick Stewart
"Let's face it, we haven't really played anybody on this level yet. The difference in the level is that they have more than one great perimeter scorer or one very good inside post-up guy; all five of them can play. So guys that haven't been challenged defensively will get challenged in this game." -- Tim Floyd
Season To Date: It was a rough start to the Tim Floyd era at Southern Cal. The Trojans opened their season with a loss to Cal State Northridge and then were routed by Oral Roberts. Three days later, USC barely escaped a loss to Alaska-Anchorage, prevailing by a single point. However, they've put together a seven-game winning streak which the Trojans carry into Wednesday night's game against the Tar Heels. So here's the question - is USC that much better now or has their competition during the streak been weak? It's probably both to a degree, but it appears the answer leans toward the latter. There's no question the team is playing better, as evidenced by improved stats on both ends of the floor. But, these are the seven teams they've beaten in a row -- Eastern Washington, Alaska-Anchorage (by one point), UC Riverside, BYU, Loyola Marymount (by two points), Western Michigan and Alcorn State. Thus North Carolina will be, by far, the best team USC has faced this season.
Sophomore Leader: High-rising 6-6 sophomore Nick Young leads the Trojans in scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). He's posted two double-doubles already, is shooting an impressive 52 percent from the field and is also an 84-percent free throw shooter.
Sophomore Slump?: Gabe Pruitt was one of the few bright spot for USC last season. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman team honors after leading the Trojans in points, assists, steals and three-point percentage. While still a great defender (2.3 steals per game), his shooting numbers have been way down this season. He shot 45.0 percent from beyond the arc last season, and that's down to 28.3 percent, as he shoots more than five threes per game. From an overall scoring standpoint, though, he has fared much better the last four games, averaging 20.0 points and shooting 88.5 percent from the free throw line. He exploded for a career-high 36 points on on Dec. 10 at Loyola Marymount, shooting 13-of-19 from the field, including 5-of-10 on three-point attempts.
New Faces: This is a team with very little Division I experience. Of the nine-man rotation, five are newcomers, Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young are sophomores and senior Dwayne Shackleford (a JuCo transfer) has only played 23 games due to knee injuries. That leaves junior Lodrick Stewart as the most experienced player.
De-fense!: USC has held its opponents to only 38.8 percent shooting from the field. In the Trojans' seven wins, the opponents are shooting just 36.9 percent. Gabe Pruitt and Ryan Francis lead the team in steals, while Lodrick Stewart is a heralded on-the-ball defender as well. Centers Abdoulaye N'diaye and RouSean Cromwell combine to average 3.4 blocks per game.
Series History: The Tar Heels are 7-0 in the all-time series with USC, including last season's 97-65 blowout in Chapel Hill.
Background Location: Los Angeles, Calif. Enrollment: 32,000 Conference: Pacific-10 Nickname: Trojans Colors: Cardinal & Gold Head Coach: Tim Floyd Record at USC: 7-2
Projected Starters: 12 Ryan Francis (5-11, 170, Fr.) – 6.9 ppg, 3.8 apg 34 Gabe Pruitt (6-4, 170, So.) – 15.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.3 spg 3 Lodrick Stewart (6-4, 210, Jr.) - 11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg 1 Nick Young (6-6, 195, So.) – 16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg 21 Abdoulaye N'diaye (6-11, 230, Jr.) - 4.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg Key Reserves: 42 RouSean Cromwell (6-10, 215, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg 41 Jeremy Barr (6-8, 265, Fr.) – 3.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg 25 Sead Odzic (6-3, 180, Fr.) – 2.7 ppg 15 Dwayne Shackleford (5-10, 185, Sr.) – 2.3 ppg, 1.7 apg
Young ... Pruitt
Francis ... Cromwell