BEACH: Washington/USC matchups

With Washington playing USC Thursday night in Los Angeles, it will be the first time since a 20-point beatdown versus Gonzaga that the young Washington Huskies hit the road in search of their first road win. How will it turn out? Well, here's a position-by-position breakdown of the matchups.

Daniel Hackett (12.3 ppg, 3.8 apg) vs. Justin Dentmon (11.9 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.2 rpg)
Edge: Huskies

Lacking a true point guard, the Trojans are at a decided disadvantage against the Huskies at the point. To his credit, Freshman Daniel Hackett has filled in admirably, solidifying the position for USC, and is a stupendous free throw shooter at near 90%. In fact, more than half of his scoring has come at the line and it will be a challenge for Justin Dentmon to stay out of foul trouble, something that he has struggled with of late. Dentmon is still adjusting to life with two dominant posts. Though he has pressed at times this year, Dentmon has become more versatile in just about every other aspect of the game, and while his shooting touch has been inconsistent this season, the team has surged of late due to his maturation and unselfish play. Because the Trojans are at such a disadvantage down low, they will do everything in their power to keep the ball out of the post. That means Husky success will ride on Dentmon keeping his composure while directing the offense, and letting the game come to him instead of trying to force the action.
Lodrick Stewart (14.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .400 3-pt. %) vs. Adrian Oliver (6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Edge: Trojans

Stewart is a player Husky fans remember well because of the hype that surrounded his recruitment (along with Brother Rodrick who chose USC over Washington) and while his Trojan career has not panned out quite how he expected, he has still emerged and one of the top all around performers in the conference. A phenomenal athlete built like a defensive back, The 6-4 senior can score from just about anywhere on the court and is also a standout defender making life miserable for freshman Adrian Oliver, who is still struggling to find his outside stroke. Oliver, like the rest of the Washington freshman, is growing more confident every game, and while he continues to be plagued by the turnover bug as a result of occasional poor decision making, he has also proven to be a scrappy rebounder and defender, with a knack for finding the open man while dribbling through traffic. Stewart will try to harass Oliver into making mistakes and, like the rest of the Husky backcourt, it will be critical that Oliver stay in control and find his offensive rhythm despite the constant defensive pressure.
Nick Young (16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) vs. Quincy Pondexter (15.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, .458 3-pt. %)
Edge: Trojans

Nick Young is no secret to the Washington coaching staff, having torched the Dawgs for 28 points the last time the two teams met, and Husky forward Quincy Pondexter is going to have his hands full all night. Young might be the Pac 10's best all-around scorer, and is also a rebounding machine, forcing contact down low while scoring from inside or out. Pondexter won't be asked to guard Young alone and will rely heavily on help from his teammates to stop the explosive wing. The lanky freshman is in the process of redefining his role with the Huskies, who have become more post-oriented with the emergence of Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman, and Pondexter's offensive productivity has suffered in recent games after roaring out of the gates. For the Huskies to win, they need a big showing from Pondexter, especially on the defensive end. If the Dawgs stop Young, they stop the Trojans, who live or die by his play. In the team's 3 losses this year, opposing teams have held Young to a little more than 10 points a game, but let him go off - it could spell doom for the Dawgs.
Taj Gibson (12.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg .626 fg %) vs. Jon Brockman (12.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg)
Edge: Huskies

Taj Gibson has been one of the biggest surprises looking around the Pac 10 so far this season. Averaging nearly a double-double, the freshman is a constant presence around the basket, using his long arms and pogo-stick legs to collect rebounds, block shots (1.5 bpg) and gather put-backs while being a constant nuisance to opposing post players with his limitless energy. Gibson isn't a creator on the blocks, scoring in much the same fashion that Jon Brockman did during his freshman campaign, but he does possess a nice touch around the hoop. In fact, aside from the 40-pound weight difference, they are very similar players. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Gibson has shown a penchant for turning the ball over (3.6 to), especially against quality competition. Against Kansas, he surrendered the ball 11 times. Jon Brockman, fresh of an LSU game that saw him totally frustrate and demoralized All-American Glen "Big Baby" Davis with his physical play and constant battering, is on a huge momentum upswing, and has taken his game to a new level in recent weeks. Look for Brockman to try and totally overwhelm the freshman using his superior strength and vicious tenacity to dominate him physically, while limiting his second chance opportunities and forcing Gibson to make mistakes.
Abdoulaye N'Diaye (4.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg) vs. Spencer Hawes (15.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 bpg)
Edge: Huskies

N'Diaye has been a nice addition to the USC lineup, averaging roughly 18 minutes per game. The senior center from Dakar, Senegal isn't much of an offensive threat, but he can rebound and block shots and affords coach Tim Floyd a long body to throw between the basket and Washington center Spencer Hawes. Hawes meanwhile, is coming off a torrid couple of weeks, finally living up to his billing as one of the top freshman in the country - earning Pac 10 Player of the Week honors after his breakout performance against LSU. N'Diaye and 6-11 Sophomore center RouSean Cromwell (3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg) will do their best to keep Hawes as far from the basket as possible, and rely on the Trojan wings to double team the star freshman in much the same manner as the Huskies did to Glen Davis, limiting his scoring opportunities. Hawes' stellar passing skills will be put to the test when double teamed, leaving his teammates free for open shots from outside.
Edge: Trojans

Adding last year's Pac-10 scoring leader to their bench is an easy way to tip the scales in favor of USC. Gabe Pruitt, fresh off academic probation, has struggled thus far in limited minutes, going 0-6 from the field, but having the dynamic scorer and potential game-changer on the bench is still a huge advantage for Floyd. The Trojans feature seven freshmen and have 10 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game including frosh Kevin Galloway and Dwight Lewis, both of who have made solid contributions at times this season. The Dawgs are starting to settle into a nice eight or nine-man rotation that includes sharpshooters Ryan Appleby (8.5 ppg, coming off a 1-10 shooting performance against Weber State) and walk-on Brandon Burmeister (4.7 ppg, .481 3-pt. %), who never met a 25 -footer he didn't like. The Huskies are also seeing increasing contributions from fast-improving Phil Nelson (5.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg) who adds one more fantastic shooter from long range and creates mismatches due to his height and athleticism. Top Stories