UC Irvine Anteaters (0-1) at USC Trojans (0-0)
Head Coach: Russell Turner (Year 1: 0-1)
Conference: Big West
Stars: F Eric Wise, G Darren Moore
Location: Galen Center
Time: 1:00 PM PDT
Radio: KXSC (listen at kscr.org), 710AM
Matchup: The Trojans open up the 2010-2011 campaign at home against the UC Irvine Anteaters. Early on in the season, the Anteaters are the textbook cupcake, coming off of a 14-18 season. Irvine faltered in their second exhibition game, losing to Division II Concordia. After that, they went to Champaign, where they hung tough with No. 13 Illinois before falling 79-65. Darren Moore led Irvine with 18 points at Illinois, but Irvine shot a mere 7-20 from beyond the arc. The Anteaters are led by junior forward Eric Wise, who has been named to the All-Big West Second Team the past two seasons. Wise led the team in 2009 by averaging 16 points per game a year ago and he also led in rebounds and assists. Senior guard Darren Moore provides another outlet for points for Irvine. However, the Anteaters top 3-point shooter from a year ago was lost to graduation and the Anteaters don’t have much else to work with. Not many returning players have contributed significantly in the past. No one else averaged over 3 points per game last year, and someone needs to step up or the Anteaters will be offensively challenged. At Illinois, they shot just 34.9% from the field. USC is reknowned for its defense, so the Anteaters will be fighting an uphill battle all day.
USC has plenty of experience in the front court to counter wise with Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson inside. The main concern for the Trojans will be in the backcourt. Jio Fontan, a transfer from Fordham, won’t be eligible until the second semester. The onus will fall on talented recruits Bryce Jones and Maurice Jones to hold down the fort at the point guard position. In 2009-2010, the point guard position was crucial to the success of the team under Kevin O’Neill. The Trojans struggled without an effective point guard, but flourished when Mike Gerrity became eligible and sparked an eight game win streak. In a radio interview last Saturday, Kevin O’Neill said he has preached to his team about not letting games they should win slip away because a 20-win season is hard to come by. Today at Galen, the Trojans embark on a journey to reach the NCAA tournament, a feat that self-imposed sanctions wouldn’t allow last year.
While Irvine isn’t a team USC can overlook, today’s contest is a game USC should win and use it as a starting point to gain momentum before the likes of Texas, Kansas, and Tennessee show up on the schedule.