USC Trojans vs. Cal Bears
Galen Center | Los Angeles, Calif.
8:00 PM Pacific | FSN
The Trojans began their Pac-12 campaign on the right foot Thursday night, beating Stanford 71-69 on the back of two late Jio Fontan free throws to win it. It was the first Pac-12 opener USC has won since 2009 and remarkably, matched the Trojans’ Pac-12 win total from last season. Needless to say, it was a much needed win, as the Trojans improved their overall record to 6-8, including two-straight wins.
Now comes the Cal Bears, who have become a perennial Pac-12 title contender under coach Mike Montgomery. The Bears started the season by winning their first six games, and with a good showing in the DirecTV Classic, which included wins over Drake, Georgia Tech and Princeton. Since then however, Cal has struggled, losing five of seven games including quality losses to Creighton and UNLV, in addition to a slip-up against Harvard.
Despite recent struggles, Cal still has the Pac-12′s leading scorer, Allen Crabbe. Not only does the 6-foot-6 swingman score just under 21 points per game, he leads the league in offensive win shares and is sixth in the conference in PER with a 26.2 rating.
But Montgomery’s Bears aren’t solely based on Crabbe’s offensive prowess. Per usual, Cal is strong on the boards, as they’re 30th in the nation in rebounding. If the Bears can play well down low , securing rebounds, they’ll be able to extend their possessions and grab more opportunities for Crabbe.
On the flip side, the biggest telling sign to USC’s success is rebounding. Because the Trojans are shooting a collective 42.3 percent from the field, good for 212th in the country, each lost rebound is magnified by poor shooting.
During USC’s gruel three-game stretch that saw them play Nebraska, New Mexico and Minnesota, the Trojans were routinely out-rebounded, leading to three losses that defined the early season. In the last two games however, USC has kept the battle on the boards to much closer ratio, down just two boards in those two wins over Dayton and Stanford.
Projected Starting Lineups