The USC men's basketball team welcome the Cal Poly Mustangs to the Galen Center Thursday night in the team's first matchup since USC was held to just 36 points against Cal Poly in 2011. The Trojans have a three-game winning streak after defeating Yale 68-56 on Sunday night while the Mustangs (5-4) are coming off their worst performance of the year, losing to Saint Mary's by 30 points.
USC (8-2) will try to continue their winning ways at home where it is a perfect 6-0 on the season.
Here's what to watch, where you can see the game, a flashback to the last time these teams played and the projected starting lineups.
What to Watch:
Run and Gun - Expect a high-scoring affair tonight. Both teams want to push the tempo and play a more uptempo style. USC enters scoring more than 13 points better than it did last season at 80.9 points per game. Cal Poly is averaging 75 points per game, so expect some fast back-and-forth action. The Mustangs had scored 71 or more points in every game prior to their loss on Monday while USC is also coming off its worst scoring output this year as well, scoring just 68 points in a win over Yale. USC has scored more than 90 points three times and hit triple digits once. If the Trojans shoot well, this game could end up in the same points realm.
Missing Playmaker - Is it pure coincidence that USC had its lowest scoring output this year on a night that Julian Jacobs is unavailble to play? Not likely. Jacobs, who was out with Achilles tendinitis, has been the primary playmaker and tablesetter for his teammates. The junior combo guard has become the Trojans' lead man, bringing the ball up and allowing Jordan McLaughlin to play on the wing. He has scored 12.2 points per game while grabbing 6.1 rebounds and leading the team with 5.3 assists per game with a solid 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Jacobs is listed as day-to-day with the injury, but head coach Andy Enfield said he will be rested until he is healhy with the Trojans in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Getting Back to Normal - Without Jacobs, USC put the ball back in the hands of Jordan McLaughlin, who looked the best he has since having his nose broke in the Xavier game last month. After four straight games of scoring less than 10 points and shooting just 8-for-28, McLaughlin appeared to have settled into his new face mask. He was 5-for-9 shooting against Yale for 14 points and added seven rebounds and six assists.
Get Buckets, Bennie - The maturation of Bennie Boatwright has been quick. The 6-foot-10 freshman stretch forward has had his ups and downs so far this year, but he seems to have found his rhythm recently. Boatwright has led USC in scoring the last two games with 17 points in each to boost his scoring average to 12.6 -- second best on the team. He is shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and 38.6 from deep. He also hasn't missed a free throw since the third game of the year.
Cold Stew - It's a good thing the Trojans have had multiple players step up and perform because one of the players that expected to get big contributions from has gone cold. Elijah Stewart's scoring average dipped below 10 points for the first time this season after he was held scoreless for the first time this season against Yale. Stewart began the season with a lot of hype after a strong offseason and burst out of the blocks with games of 14, 20 and 18 points. Since then he has averaged only 5.8 points per game and scored in double figures only once.
It had been hinted that Stewart might be benched in favor of Katin Reinhardt before the Yale game, but with Jacobs going down, Stewart remained in the lineup. Maybe coming off the bench wouldn't be the worst idea to allow him to try to come in and provide energy and intensity on the defensive end, which could help jumpstart his offense with a steal or one of the big blocks he is capable of.
Know Thy Enemy - Cal Poly is 5-4 on the season after losing to Saint Mary's on Monday as the Gaels hit a school record 19 three-pointers adn the Mustangs had one of their worst performances of the year. The Mustangs have played their two strongest opponents, UNLV and UCLA, tough losing by two to the Rebels and falling 88-83 to UCLA.
Joel Awich leads Cal Poly averaging 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds while David Nwaba does a little bit of everything for the Mustangs. Nwaba is second on the team with 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds. He also leads the team in assists and has a 2.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Cal Poly has been one of the best teams in the nation in limiting its turnovers, so it will be important for USC to get off to a good start since the Mustangs aren't going to give the ball away to let USC get back into it if they dig an early hole.
Last Matchup: Cal Poly won 42-36 on Nov. 19, 2011.
In one of the most infamous games of recent USC basketball history, the Trojans lost to Cal Poly while scoring just 36 points. USC actually held a eight-point lead early in the second half, but the Mustangs took the lead with five and a half minutes remaining. The Trojans managed just four minutes the rest of the game with Cal Poly pulling away with a 9-1 run to end the game. Aaron Fuller led USC with 15 points.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 7:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (Jim Watson, Don MacLean.
Radio: TuneIn Radio (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore)
Projected Starting Lineups:
G - Ridge Shipley (6-0 junior)
G - Taylor Sutlive (6-3 sophomore)
G - David Nwaba (6-4 senior)
F - Joel Awich (6-7 senior)
F - Brian Bennett (6-9 senior)
G - Jordan McLaughlin (6-1 sophomore)
G - Katin Reinhardt (6-6 junior)
G - Elijah Stewart (6-5 sophomore)
F - Bennie Boatwright (6-10 freshman)
F - Nikola Jovanovic (6-11 junior)