Hoops Preview - USC

After a heartbreaking loss to the UCLA Bruins, the Washington Huskies (12-6, 3-4) will look to regain their form against the USC Trojans (11-7, 3-3). The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. PST tipoff, and will be held at the Galen Center. USC is also coming off of a tough loss to Washington State at home on Thursday by a score of 67-60.

Although many didn't pick USC to finish toward the top of the Pac-10, they have done quite well this year, with wins over Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA to go with victories over UC-Riverside, Coppin State, Sacramento State, Idaho State, Tennessee, Western Michigan, Saint Mary's and UNLV.

They have lost games to Loyola Marymount, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia Tech, Stanford, California and Washington State.

This game will be considered a must-win for the Huskies to pull this season back together. However USC is a team that UW won't match up well with because of the Trojans' strength in the front court, namely Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic.

Vucevic, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore, has stepped up his play this year after having a limited role last year. He is averaging 11.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field. To go with that, he also has an average of 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

His partner in crime has been Stepheson, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior transfer from North Carolina. Although he is a Los Angeles native, he chose to go to Chapel Hill out of high school. He saw limited playing time over his first two years there, so he decided to return home. So far this year he has been effective, with 10.1 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He is shooting 47 percent from the field.

Leading the Trojans in scoring is a player who seems like he has been at USC for a long time. Dwight Lewis, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior guard, is finally the key player for the Trojans and is making the most of it, with an average of 13.8 points per game. The last four games have been effective for Lewis, as he has bumped that average up by six points per contest; however, he is only shooting 40 percent from the field.

One of the more interesting stories on this USC team has been that of Mike Gerrity, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior guard. He originally started his collegiate career with Pepperdine, but he decided to transfer to Charlotte after Paul Westphal left the team. At the time, Gerrity was just one game into his second year in Malibu.

At Charlotte, he was certain that coach Bobby Lutz was going to play an up-tempo offense and that he would play a major role on the team. That plan never came to be, and he chose to transfer yet again. He began to look at Division II schools to find a new home until he found out that USC was looking for a point guard.

Gerrity missed the first eight games of this season due to transfer rules, but when he played his first game against Tennessee he made it count, with 12 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. Since he became eligible, USC's record has been 7-3. He is averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 assists per game, but more importantly he has taken a leadership role on the team and given the team a true point guard.

As a team, USC is averaging a Pac-10 low 59.6 points per game, but have also held teams to less - 55.4 points per game. They are not the best ball-handlers, averaging 14.7 turnovers per game, and shoot 44 percent from the field - good enough for ninth in the conference.

After this game, the Huskies return home and begin preparations for a game against the Cameron Dollar-led Seattle University team featuring former Husky recruit Charles Garcia. The game is on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PST and will be held in the Bank of America Arena.

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