Stanford vs. USC, UCLA Previews

It snuck up on us, but the start of the Pac-10 women's hoops has arrived. Stanford begins conference play Wednesday night at USC, followed by a trip to UCLA on Friday for an early afternoon affair. In this balanced league, road wins are paramount to title hopes, and the Los Angeles swing was the toughest the Cardinal faced last season. What do this year's Trojans and Bruins bring to the table?

Over the last two games…

USC easily won their last two games, both over unranked teams.  On December 14, USC defeated Prairie View A&M, 78-53, and two days later beat Houston, 65-42.  USC beat Prairie View A&M with good defense, limiting the Lady Panthers to just 27.1% shooting while rebounding defensively at almost a 2:1 ratio to the Lady Panthers offensive boards.  Against Houston, USC out-rebounded the Cougars, 55-30, and held them to just 11 points in the first half.  The Cougars didn't help themselves at the free throw line, shooting just 25% at the stripe.

For USC, center Chloe Kerr averaged 13.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game and shot .462 on 12-of-26 from the field.  Guard Eshaya Murphy averaged 15 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game and shot .357 on 10-of-28.  Nadia Parker averaged an amazing 17.5 points in just 19 minutes per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and shot .666 from the field on 16-of-24.

UCLA lost their last two games, including one to ninth-ranked Baylor.  On December 9, UCLA lost a winnable game to New Mexico with a score of 63-72.  UCLA turned over the ball 18 times to New Mexico's 8. On 12/17/2006, UCLA could not get to the line against Baylor, and when they did, they shot only 50% on 6 of 12 attempts. Despite out-rebounding Baylor 43-32, UCLA lost 70-83, having turned the ball over 23 times.

For UCLA, guard Noelle Quinn averaged 17 points per game, with 6.5 rebounds per game, and shot just .333 on 13-of-39 from the field.  Forward Lindsey Pluimer averaged 20 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, and shot .621 on 18-of-29.

14th-ranked Stanford won their last two games, including one over then 25th-ranked Texas Tech.  On December 3, Stanford destroyed Texas Tech, 73-49, limiting the Lady Raiders to just four field goals in the second half.  On December 16, Stanford kept up the defensive pressure, forcing Utah to turn the ball over 20 times en route to a 74-47 drubbing.  This blow-out came despite zero points from Brooke Smith and only 17 minutes from Candice Wiggins, due to a leg injury in the first half.

Stanford's Keys to the Game…

The gameplan for both teams will be similar.  USC is a good rebounding team and can be prone to turnovers (0.8 assist/turnover ratio).  Foul management will be key for Stanford, as the Trojans are an excellent free throw shooting team (.767, 17th in nation).  USC's Murphy and Kerr take most of the team's shots, so defending or doubling them will be key.  Get a body on Parker when she comes off the bench, as she is on fire.  USC is a team decimated by injuries, so a lack of depth on the bench will be problematic if USC gets into foul trouble (seven foul-outs this year).

UCLA will shoot the lights out, ranked 16th in the nation on field goals made (316).  Defensive pressure will be key once again, as the Bruins are a turnover-prone team (0.7 assist/turnover ratio).  UCLA rebounds well on both ends of the court, and limiting second chance points for them will be very important for Stanford.  Quinn and Pluimer take most of UCLA's shots, by far, so limiting their touches and open looks will be advantageous.  Stanford needs to continue their trend of field goal production from players other than guard Candice Wiggins and center/forward Brooke Smith, as well as free throw success.  Against Utah, despite being held scoreless, Smith recorded four assists, with only one turnover.

Look for…

* Brooke Smith to have a monster road trip.  A goose-egg in her last game, despite dishing out four assists, has to leave a bad taste in her mouth.

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