USC was an NCAA Tournament team last year, but is down to six scholarship players after injuries and pro departures ravaged the roster.
GAME: USC (6-17, 1-9 Pac-12) at Washington (15-7, 8-2 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m., Alaska Airlines Arena. MEETING: 135th (Trojans lead 68-66). RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. TV: FSN. RADIO: KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.
USC went 19-15 in 2011-12 and made the NCAA Tournament field, but after losing three starters from that team, including top scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic (17.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and Alex Stephenson (9.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Pac-12 writers and broadcasters couldn’t envision the Trojans doing much this season, predicting they would finish seventh in the preseason media poll.
Turns out, Pac-12 media members were wildly optimistic. The Trojans will arrive at Alaska Airlines Arena Saturday with a 6-17 record (1-9 in league play), as losers of 10 of their past 11, and ranked last in most offensive statistical categories, including scoring offense.
Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies have won four in a row and 10 of the past 12 after edging UCLA 71-69Thursday in a game in which Washington played a poor first half and had to rally from 10 down in the second to win.
The big question is the health of Tony Wroten, who sustained a thigh bruise in the first half Thursday and was benched because of it for the final eight minutes. He sat out practice Friday. “My thought is, Tony is a warrior,” said Romar, “and he’ll try to find a way to play.”
SERIES: Dates to Feb. 26, 1925, when Washington registered a 40-23 victory over USC in Seattle. UW has lost three of its past four against the Trojans, including the last one, a 62-60 setback March 5, 2011, at Alaska Airlines Arena. Isaiah Thomas scored 16 points for Washington and Venoy Overton 15.
LAST GAME (Washington, Feb. 2): Terrence Ross scored 10 of Washington’s final 12 points to finish with 22, and the Huskies overcame a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left to stun UCLA 71-69. Ross’ 3-pointer from the wing with 1:20 remaining turned out to be the game-winner, but the Huskies had to watch Norman Powell’s baseline jumper with three seconds left hang on the rim and fall off before celebrating their fourth straight win over the Bruins. Ross scored 18 in the second half. Tony Wroten added 13 and Darnell Gant 12. Josh Smith led UCLA with 24.
LAST GAME (USC, Feb. 2): Brock Motum scored 26 points to lead Washington State past Southern California 60-53. USC (6-17, 1-9) put together a 14-4 run midway through the second half, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 49-45 with 6:42 remaining, but WSU went 4 of 5 at the free throw line during a minute-long span to go up 56-45 with 3:38 left. Garrett Jackson led USC with 15 points.
UW STATS/NOTES: C.J. Wilcox again leads the Pac-12 lead in free throw shooting, making 90.2 percent of his attempts . . . Abdul Gaddy is third in assists at 4.64 per game . . . Aziz N’Diaye has moved into second place in the rebounding race, averaging 8.2 per game (Colorado’s Andre Roberson averages 11.2) . . . Tony Wroten (16.9 ppg) is second behind Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham (17.9 ppg) in the conference scoring race . . . UW ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in scoring (76.5 ppg), 11th in scoring defense (71.1 ppg), 11th in free throw percentage (61.7), sixth in field goal percentage (45.6), sixth in 3-point shooting (36.5) and first in rebounding (39.8).
USC STATS/NOTES: Trojans are 0-5 in Pac-12 road games . . . Statistical oddity about the Trojans: They feature the worst offense in the Pac-12 (54.3 ppg), but the No. 1 scoring defense (58.2) . . . USC also ranks last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (40.3), free throw percentage (60.9), 3-point shooting percentage (29.5), 3-points made per game (4.09), rebounding (27.8) and assists (9.26) . . . Fuller is USC’s leading rebounder at 5.9 per game (14th, Pac-12) . . . Maurice Jones averages 38.30 minutes per game, highest average in the conference.
COACHES: Lorenzo Romar is in his 10th season as Washingtons head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and has won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies 76-63 Jan. 21.
Kevin O’Neill: O’Neill is in his third season as head coach of the Trojans, and coming off a year in which he guided USC to a 19-15 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. O’Neill began his NCAA Division I collegiate head coaching career at Marquette, where he went 86-62 (.581) in five seasons (1990-94) and had three postseason appearances. He was Tennessee’s head coach from 1995-97, inheriting a team that had won five games in 1994. The Volunteers made the NIT his second season. O’Neill was also an assistant at Arizona. During the 2008-09 season, he served as an assistant coach and special assistant to the general manager of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
ART THIEL’S TAKE: The good sign for the Huskies was a brilliant comeback against UCLA over the last eight minutes despite the injury absence of Wroten. The bad sign is they may have to do it for 40 minutes if his thigh bruise sustained Thursday keeps him out.
Ross was pure ice in the UCLA win, establishing that another Husky besides Wroten can take over and dominate. The role of the Huskies’ bench has dwindled but probably will have a chance to come up large against a USC team that has only six scholarship players and has lost eight of the last 10 road games. The Trojans represent a great opportunity to play everyone, including the Dawg Pack. Washington 78, USC 60.
STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: Given that USC hasn’t won a Pac-12 game on the road this season and has lost 10 of its past 11, Washington should win this game by 15-20 points, maybe more.
Trouble is, one can never predict what frame of mind the Huskies will have at tipoff.
The Huskies still quite haven’t come to grips with the idea that they need to play a full 40 minutes, evidenced — again — by the awful first half they had against UCLA Thursday.
That said, they have such a talent edge on USC that its almost inconceivable that they will lose to the Trojans. Washington 82, USC 63.
COMING UP: Washington plays at Oregon Feb. 9 (8 p.m.) and at Oregon State Feb. 12 (2:30 p.m.) before turning to Alaska Airlines Arena Feb. 16 to host Arizona State.
University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results
(Rankings Are Current)
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|11/4/11||vs. Seattle Pacific||—||—||W||77-60||0-0|
|11/12/11||vs. Georgia State||—||—||W||91-74||1-0|
|11/13/11||vs. Florida Atlantic||—||—||W||77-71||2-0|
|11/20/11||at Saint Louis||—||—||L||77-64||3-1|
|11/25/11||vs. Houston Baptist||—||—||W||88-65||4-1|
|12/2/11||at Nevada||—||—||L||76-73 (OT)||4-2|
|12/16/11||vs. UC Santa-Barbara||—||—||W||87-80||5-4|
|12/18/11||vs. South Dakota St.||—||—||L||92-73||5-5|
|12/22/11||vs. Cal-State Northridge||—||—||W||74-50||6-5|
|12/29/11||vs. Oregon State||—||—||W||95-80||7-5|
|1/10/12||vs. Seattle U.||—||—||W||91-83||10-6|
|1/15/12||vs. Washington St.||—||—||W||75-65||11-6|
|1/26/12||at Arizona St.||—||—||W||60-54||13-7|
|2/12/12||at Oregon St.||—||—||—||—||—|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||—||—||—||—||—|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||—||—||—||—||—|