USC Travels Crosstown For Showdown With No. 6 UCLA Saturday|
Feb. 16, 2017
The USC Trojans (21-5, 8-5) will travel across town to face rival No. 6 UCLA (23-3, 10-3) at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 18 at 7:00 p.m. USC began the season 14-0 which ranks tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in school history and was the best USC start since the 1971 season. USC's 21-5 start is its best since the 1992 team also went 21-5. If USC wins, the 22-5 start will match the 1992 team and if USC loses, the 21-6 start would be its best since the 1992 team through 27 games. This is the 15th USC team to win 21 or more games in school history. Tonight's game will be USC's sixth against teams which have won 22 or more games this season.
BREAKING DOWN No. 6 UCLA -- UCLA is coming off a 78-60 win vs. Oregon State on Feb. 12. UCLA has six players averaging double figures in points led by TJ Leaf (16.6), Bryce Alford (15.8) and Lonzo Ball (15.4). The Bruins are the top scoring team in the country at 91.9 points per game. USC defeated UCLA 84-76 at the Galen Center on Jan. 25 to run its winning streak over the Bruins to four games. UCLA lead the all-time series 138-108, which reflects one USC win vacated due to NCAA penalty. USC is 2-2 in its last four games at Pauley Pavilion. USC's four-game winning streak against UCLA is its longest since also winning four straight in 2009-2011. The last time USC had a longer winning streak against UCLA was when it won 42 consecutive games against the Bruins from 1932-43.
USC'S COMEBACK AGAINST OREGON FALLS SHORT -- USC rallied back from a 10-point deficit in the second half to trail by three points with three minutes remaining, but Oregon's Tyler Dorsey hit two clutch three-pointers and the Ducks held on for an 81-70 victory at the Galen Center on Feb. 11. USC was thwarted from winning its sixth consecutive conference game in one season for the first time since 1992. USC also had its losing streak against Oregon extended to 14 games. USC trailed by 11 points in the first half but cut it to two at 35-33 at halftime. USC took the lead early in the second half at 50-46, but Oregon responded with a 15-4 run to go up seven points at 61-54 with 8:41 remaining and never trailed again. USC struggled with it shooting, hitting just 32.4 percent in the first half and 37.3 percent for the game. It was even worse for the Trojans from long range, making just 6 of 27 three-pointers (22.2 percent). Oregon hit 10 of 23 three-pointers (43.5 percent). USC, which usually wins the turnover battle, committed 16 turnovers which led to a Oregon advantage of 23-12 on points off turnovers.
No. 5 ARIZONA ON DECK -- USC's next game will be at No. 5 Arizona (23-3, 12-1) on Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m. The Pac-12-leading Wildcats will play at Washington State on Feb. 16 and Washington on Feb. 18 before hosting the Trojans. Arizona defeated USC 73-66 at the Galen Center on Jan. 19 and leads the all-time series 64-41 which reflects one win by both teams vacated due to NCAA penalty. Arizona has five players scoring over 11 points per game, led by freshman forward Lauri Markkanen at 15.2 points per game. Arizona has won 17 of its last 18 games.
STILL IN RARIFIED AIR -- USC is one of 33 Division I schools (out of 351) which has five losses or less through games of Feb. 15 and its .808 winning percentage is tied for 22nd best in the country. USC's is also tied for 21st in the country in wins with 21.
GRUELING GAUNTLET -- USC is the only team in the country scheduled to play two games against No. 7 Oregon (22-4), No. 5 Arizona (23-3) and No. 6 UCLA (23-3) this season and is currently in a stretch of playing them consecutively. USC lost to Oregon on Feb. 11, now plays at UCLA on Feb. 18 and at Arizona on Feb. 23. All three of those teams rank in the top 10 in the country in terms of winning percentage.
MELTON'S FAB FRESHMAN CAMPAIGN -- The Pac-12 has some of the top freshmen in the country this season and De'Anthony Melton is one of the best in the conference. He is one of two freshmen (Markelle Fultz of Washington) to rank among the top five Pac-12 freshmen this season in rebounding (5th), steals (1st), blocks (3rd) and assists (5th). He is 12th in scoring at 9.3 points per game and only Melton and Devon Daniels of Utah rank among the Pac-12 freshmen top 12 in scoring and top 10 in rebounding, field goal percentage (min. 50 attempts), free throw percentage (min. 40 attempts), steals, blocks and assists.
MR. BUCKETS BACK IN ACTION -- Sophomore forward Bennie "Bennie Buckets" Boatwright scored 23 points on 7 of 10 shooting in his return to action at Washington on Feb. 1 and added 13 at Washington State on Feb. 4. He then scored 16 points vs. Oregon State on Feb. 9 in his first game at the Galen Center since Nov. 27. He had missed USC's previous 15 games since suffering a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament in his left knee three minutes into the game at San Diego on Nov. 30. The Trojan co-captain is averaging 13.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in nine games, eight starts. USC is 8-1 in the games he has played this season.
PRECISION FROM THE POINT -- USC junior point guard Jordan McLaughlin has efficiently led the USC offense while averaging 12.9 points 3.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He ranks third among Pac-12 players with 132 assists and is fourth with a 2.2 assist to turnover ratio through games on Feb. 14. McLaughlin has 392 career assists which ranks fifth on USC's all-time assists list, six behind Julian Jacobs and Duane Cooper are tied for third with 398 career assists. McLaughlin went 3-for-8 from the free throw line in the 74-73 loss to California on Jan. 8 after entering the game having made 35 of previous 37 free throw attempts (94.6 percent). Still, he has made 85.1 percent (57 of 67) of his free throws in the last 17-plus games. McLaughlin scored his 1,000th career point with his last basket vs. Arizona on Jan. 19 to become the 37th Trojan to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He also has 123 career steals, 10th all-time in steals by a Trojan and two behind Maurice Jones who is ninth on the list with 125 career steals.
SULTANS OF SWAT -- USC set a school record for blocks in a game with 14 vs. Pepperdine on Dec. 11, but did not record a block at Colorado on Jan. 15, its first game without a block since Jan. 19, 2012 at Oregon (snapping a streak of 161 consecutive games with at least one block). USC bounced back with eight blocks against Arizona on Jan. 19 and seven vs. ASU on Jan. 22. For the season, USC is averaging 5.8 blocks per game which ranks T-7th in the country. Four different Trojans have at least 20 blocks: Metu (41), Stewart (32), Melton (32) and Rakocevic (20).
BALANCE WITH THE BALL -- Eight different Trojans have scored at least 13 points in a game this season and seven are averaging at least 7.5 points per game.
TROJAN MEN OF STEAL -- USC has six games of 10 or more steals this season and its 182 steals lead the Pac-12. De'Anthony Melton's 49 steals are the second-most in the conference and seventh nationally among all freshmen.
STEW CAN DO -- Junior guard Elijah Stewart made a career-high seven three-point baskets vs. Pepperdine on Dec. 11 to tie for fourth on USC's single-game three-point baskets made list. He then matched that with seven makes from long range against ASU on Jan. 22 He had made at least one shot from beyond the arc in 20 consecutive games dating back to last season, before going 0-for-5 at Oregon State on Dec. 28. He now has at least one three-point basket in 30 of his last 33 games. His career total of 159 three-pointers made is eighth on USC's all-time list, four behind Elias Ayuso who is seventh with 163. Stewart is second among the Trojans in scoring at a 13.8 points per game and leads USC with 62 three-point baskets, while ranking tied for second in blocks (32) and third in rebounds (124). He has also scored in double figures in 19 of 26 games this season, with a high of 30 points. Stewart's 2.4 made three-pointers per game are sixth among all Pac-12 players. Stewart also has 32 blocks this season and 95 in his career which is tied for ninth on USC's all-time blocked shots list with Chimezie Metu and one Nikola Vucevic. Avondre Jones is eighth on the list with 101 career blocks as a Trojan.
METU BECOMING A FORCE -- Sophomore Chimezie Metu scored a career-high 29 points by making 12 of 14 shots in the win at Washington State on Feb. 4. His previous career high had been 24 points on 11 of 14 shooting at Colorado on Jan. 15, including making the go-ahead basket with 29 seconds remaining. He scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds vs. Stanford on Jan. 5 for his fourth double-double of the season and fifth of his career. He is averaging 16.3 points in the last 10 games and for the season he is averaging a team-leading 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. He also leads the team with 41 blocks and 56 dunks, while ranking fourth on the team with 22 steals. Metu has at least one dunk in 23 of USC's 26 games. He has been a consistent force for the Trojans with double-figures in points and six or more rebounds in 20 of the 26 games this season.
MAGIC MELTON -- Freshman guard De'Anthony Melton has been a consistent "stat sheet stuffer" for the Trojans leading the team in steals, ranking 2nd in rebounds and assists, T-2nd in blocks and 3rd in free throws made, 4th in minutes and 5th in scoring. He scored a career-high 16 points, had eight rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in the win vs. Wyoming on Dec. 23. He matched his career high with 16 points at Washington on Feb. 1 and added seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a career-high six steals. He is 2nd among Pac-12 players with 49 steals, which ranks 6th on USC's all-time freshman steals list, two behind O.J. Mayo* who is 5th with 51. He has at least two steals in 13 of 25 games. His 31 blocks rank 8th on USC's all-time freshman list. Melton is averaging 9.4 points and 5.5 rebounds, while ranking second on the team with 89 assists. He also ranks 6th in the conference with a 2.1 assist to turnover ratio. *Player participation later vacated due to NCAA penalty.
MATHEWS A STRONG CONTRIBUTOR AS STARTER OR OFF BENCH -- Freshman guard Jonah Mathews made his first career start vs. ASU on Jan. 22 and netted 14 points and had three steals. He scored 18 points off the bench at WSU on Feb. 4 and has provided USC with valuable minutes off the bench all season, but none more impressive than in the overtime win vs. Wyoming on Dec. 23. With several Trojans in foul trouble, Mathews played a season-high 39 minutes and scored a career-best 26 points and registered a USC 2016-17 best six steals. Mathews made 5 of 8 three-pointers, including a cluch trey to tie the game at 90-all in overtime. He followed that up with 10 points at Oregon State on Dec. 28 and a team-high 11 points at Oregon on Dec. 30. He is averaging 9.6 points (134 total) in the last 14 games and is tied for second on the team this season with 34 three-point baskets made. He also is third on the team with 29 steals.
THE YOUNG WILL LEAD -- USC's roster has only one scholarship senior and two scholarship juniors and 64.2 percent of the minutes played this season (3356 of 5225 minutes) has been by freshmen or sophomores.