Alone in first place, Washington has a near-gimme Thursday against the 1-15 Trojans, devastated by injuries and scholarship sanctions.
GAME: Washington (20-8, 13-3 Pac-12) at USC (6-23, 1-15 Pac-12. WHEN: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Galen Center, Los Angeles. MEETING: 136th (Trojans lead 68-67). RANKINGS: Neither ranked. TV: None. RADIO: KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.
The Pac-12-leading Washington Huskies will clinch at least a share of the regular-season conference championship this week with a win at either USC Thursday or UCLA Saturday. Thursday is the best bet, since the Trojans have lost seven in a row and rank as one of the league’s worst-ever teams.
In search of their second outright regular-season title since 2009, the Huskies have captured six conference titles since 1950, sharing a pair in 1983 and 1984.
Thursday’s game will not be televised, but can be seen online via live stream from USC and carried by gohuskies.com at http//www.gohuskies.com/allaccess/?media=305241.
The Huskies also seek to enhance their profile as a potential at-large NCAA Tournament team. Since 1979, only one team has won 13 conference games and failed to make the tourney. In 1982, UCLA went 14-4 in league play and 21-6, but were ineligible for postseason play due to recruiting violations.
Washington finished with just three conference losses just one time. The 1984 team, led by Detlef Schrempf, went 15-3 in league play and reached the tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.
At 1-15, USC is mired in an historically bad season. Due to scholarship restrictions from NCAA violations, the Trojans had two blank recruiting classes. Additionally, five players have gone down with season-ending injuries, leaving USC with only six scholarship players, only one taller than 6-foot-6. Injuries have forced walk-ons Daniel Munoz and Eric Strangis into the eight-man rotation.
SERIES: Dates to Feb. 26, 1925, when Washington beat USC 40-23 in Seattle. UW has lost three of its past five against the Trojans, but flattened USC in Seattle 69-41 Feb. 4. Freshman Tony Wroten had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Lorenzo Romar is 12-7 all time against the Trojans.
LAST GAME (Washington, Feb. 25): Tony Wroten, UW’s leading scorer, tallied 21 points, including 9 of 12 from the free throw line, in a 59-55 victory over Washington State. The Huskies (20-8, 13-3) erased a 45-32 deficit with 11 minutes left. The game came down to free throws. In the first half, WSU (14-14, 6-10) went 11 of 12 to keep the game tied at 28. In the second half, the Cougars shot 6 of 20 from the line. The Huskies, who were 2 of 5 in the first half, finished 17 of 24. The Cougars out-rebounded the Huskies 42-35. C.J. Wilcox had 16 points for Washington while Abdul Gaddy had 10.
LAST GAME (USC, Feb. 25): Chris Colvin completed a three-point play with 19.4 seconds to play, and Arizona State escaped with a 56-52 victory Saturday. Jordan Bachynski had 19 points, one shy of his career high, and nine rebounds as the Sun Devils (9-20, 5-12) snapped a four-game losing streak. Freshman Byron Wesley set a career best for the second straight game with 22 points for the Trojans (6-23, 1-15). Maurice Jones added 12 points on 4 of 13 shooting for USC.
UW STATS/NOTES: Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (74.9 ppg), but just 11th in scoring defense (69.8 ppg) . . . UW continues to rank next-to-last in the league in free throwing shooting (62.2 percent), ahead of only USC (61.2) . . . UW has moved into seventh place in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (.446 percent) but now ranks 10th in 3-point percentage (.334) . . . Washington leads the conference in rebounds (40.1 rpg) and offensive rebounds (14.32) . . . Tony Wroten is third in the conference scoring race with a 16.7 ppg average. Wroten is second in steals (2.00) and ninth in assists (3.54) . . . Terrence Ross is sixth at 15.1 and C.J. Wilcox seventh at 13.8 . . . Ross and WSU’s Brock Motum are the only two Pac-12 players ranked in the league’s top 10 in scoring and rebounding . . . Abdul Gaddy is third in assists at 4.68 apg . . . If the Huskies make the NCAA Tournament, senior forward Darnell Gant will become the first player in program history to participate in the Big Dance four times . . . The Huskies have won five close games this season (a win by 5 or fewer points). Since 2006, Washingto won 22 such games.
USC STATS/NOTES: USC is the worst team in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (39.1 percent), free throw shooting (61.2 percent), 3-point field goal percentage (27.4), 3-pointers made per game (4.00), rebounding (offense and defense), rebound margin (-8.6), blocked shots (2.10) and assists (9.52) . . . USC also has the second-worst scoring margin the conference, -6.4 ppg . . . USC’s top scorer, Jones, averages 13.5 ppg, eighth in the Pac-12 . . . Jones leads the conference in minutes played, averaging 38.1 per contest . . . USC has recorded fewer rebounds than their opponents for the past 15 games . . . Byron Wesley has accounted for 42.3% of USC’s points and 35.0 percent of its rebounds . . . The Trojans have lost 7 times this season in games decided by five or fewer points. Since 2006, USC has lost 34 such games.
COACHES: Lorenzo Romar is in his 10th season as Washingtons head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the tournament six times, and 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 beat Stanford 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 Huskies believe they have endured trials of injuries and inexperience this season, but they have been on a Polynesian yacht cruise compared to what USC has had to put up with. Said Romar of the ordeal endured by O’Neill: “I don’t know if I could have done what he’s done.”
Saturday’s foe, UCLA, was hit by a 7,000-word story in Sports Illustrated this week that makes many claims of misdeed and misbehavior, just in time for a CBS national telecast Saturday against UW. Rarely has there been a better moment in UW basketball history to come to Los Angeles for a sweep. But if they muff either, they will make it easier for the NCAA selection committee to further denigrate the Pac-12. Washington 83, USC 59.
STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: It’s inconceivable that Washington, the Pac-12’s leader, could lose to the 23-loss USC Trojans, even if the game is in Los Angeles.
With so much at stake for the Huskies, they merely need to show up, not fall asleep (as they did at Oregon a couple of weeks ago), and give a reasonable effort.
Where the second half against Washington State was key for the Huskies, who rallied from a 13-point, the first half will make the difference against the Trojans. If the Huskies come out ready, this could be a blowout early (historical note: Washington has blown out USC by 20 points or more on 5 occasions since 1997). UW is just too athletic for the Trojans. Washington 78, USC 62.
COMING UP: Washington closes out the regular season Saturday at UCLA, which will have an 11 a.m. start due to a CBS telecast. The Pac-12 Tournament opens Wednesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the Huskies won’t play until the second round Thursday.
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.||—||—||W||75-72||17-8|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||—||—||W||77-69||18-8|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||—||—||W||59-55||20-8|