Trojans Headed North

The USC Trojans are headed north to face Oregon and Oregon State this week after unleashing an offensive outburst against the Washington Huskies that surprised even them. Look inside for news, notes and quotes on USC basketball.

Two days after squandering a 15-point lead in a defensive performance that left them feeling ill, the Trojans unleashed an offensive outburst that surprised even them.

Not that they were complaining.

"Usually, I'm trying to explain why we can't score," coach Kevin O'Neill said after the Trojans' 87-61 rout of Washington. "(Tonight), I have no idea."

Coming off a 67-61 loss to Washington State, the Trojans (12-7, 4-3) were disgusted by their poor defense.

"That was pretty bad," forward Alex Stepheson said. "It was embarrassing."

Their answer against Washington was to rack up a season-high point total that was 27 points above their offensive average. The Huskies tried pressing, and USC responded by shooting 58 percent from the field.

"When people pressure us and press us, we're going to score," O'Neill said. "I wish everybody would press us. In the half court is where we struggle somewhat. When we can make open-court plays and run the floor, we're pretty effective."

USC turned the ball over just nine times and got 82 points from its starting five against UW.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Former USC coach Tim Floyd told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he resigned last year because of a lack of support from athletic director Mike Garrett, not the threat of NCAA sanctions. "I left not as an admission of guilt, but the fact that I did not care for my boss," Floyd said. "If I felt like I had done something wrong, why would I not have left when I was offered the Arizona job and the Memphis job, to run away from the issue like others have done in our business? I stayed because I knew that I had not done anything wrong. All I asked for was support and loyalty in return, which I received none."

--USC shot just 32 percent in the second half of its loss to Washington State. "We collapsed," coach Kevin O'Neill said. "We don't have offensive rhythm. We're at the rim time-and-time again and not finishing."

ON THE SPOT: Senior PG Mike Gerrity delivered a 15-point performance against Washington, ending a month-long scoring drought. The Trojans simply don't have enough offensive options to survive on a regular basis when Gerrity is passive as a scorer. They need him to look for his shot, too, and when he does they're a more difficult team to defend.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This one hurts. When you're up 15 points in the second half ... this one stings really bad." -- Senior PG Mike Gerrity, after the 67-60 loss to Washington State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: The Trojans had won eight in a row, six since transfer Mike Gerrity became eligible and took over at the point, before arriving in the Bay Area. In their first two games after being informed they are ineligible for the postseason, they lost to Cal and Stanford. But they rebounded with an historic win over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, then split home games against the Washington schools.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Nikola Vucevic, F Alex Stepheson, F Marcus Johnson, G Dwight Lewis, G Mike Gerrity. Key Subs -- G Marcus Simmons, F Leonard Washington.

GAME REVIEW:

USC 67, UCLA 46

Washington State 67, USC 60

USC 87, Washington 61

GAME PREVIEW:

at Oregon State, Thursday, Jan. 28

at Oregon, Saturday, Jan. 30

vs. Cal, Thursday, Feb. 4

vs. Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 6

vs. UCLA, Sunday, Feb. 14

IN FOCUS: Oregon's free-wheeling style may play right into the hands of USC, which invites teams to open up the floor and try pressing. The Trojans have won four straight and six of the past seven meetings with the Ducks, and own four consecutive wins at Eugene's McArthur Court.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Senior F Marcus Johnson had 16 points in the loss to Washington State and topped that with a career-high 22 on 9-for-11 shooting in the win over Washington. He also defended UW star Quincy Pondexter, holding him to 1-for-10 shooting.

--Senior G Dwight Lewis scored 13 points vs. Washington State, then delivered 19 to help the Trojans beat Washington.

--Senior PG Mike Gerrity's 15 points against Washington was the most he's scored since logging 17 against Saint Mary's on Dec. 23.


Marcus Johnson had a career-high 22 points in USC's 87-61 win over Washington.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com



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