USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins
Pauley Pavilion | Westwood, CA
7:00 PM Pacific | Pac-12 Network
The USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins are set to square from the newly-renovated Pauley Pavilion tonight to decide who is the best team in Los Angeles.
History favors UCLA, who have dominated the national championship department (11-0), and have won six straight contests against USC. The Bruins have recovered from a slow 5-3 start, to now sit at 16-5 on the season, currently second in the Pac-12.
The last time these teams met was in March 2012, when UCLA defeated USC in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 55-40. Defined by defense and poor shooting, USC kept the game close by holding the Bruins to 33-percent shooting.
The Trojans won their seventh game of the season on January 12th against Utah, eclipsing their total from last season. Despite the poor winning total, the Trojans have improved in certain aspects of their game.
Bob Cantu is now 1-3 as USC head coach with an increased tempo that has improved their offensive production. As part of this transformation the Trojans have averaged 69.6 points in the first eight conference games this season, fourth-best among Pac-12 schools.
USC has also registered 110 blocks this season, more than 22 complete Trojan seasons since the stat was charted in 1979, and are on a pace to get 162 blocks in the regular season, the second-highest total in school history.
In this matchup both teams will be looking to push the tempo of the basketball game led by their sensational athletes. UCLA possesses speed and athleticism at all positions agains the Trojans who battle back with size in the post and a bevy of depth to work with.
UCLA’s Larry Drew II has been a weapon with the basketball, developing into the leader of the offense. Drew leads the Pac-12 and ranks fourth in the nation with eight assists per contest propelling the Bruins 23rd ranked offense at 77 points per game.
Freshmen and star-recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have found their stride at just the right time for UCLA. Muhammad struggled on the recent Arizona trip only scoring 14 points.
Muhammad is a shot taker, firing up over 13 per game, as the first option in the offense. Like JT Terrell, Muhammad can be very streaky from the field, but UCLA is blessed to have quite an athletic specimen that can dominate a basketball game.
Anderson is a physical freak who can guard smaller players and rebound with the best at 6’9″ 235 pounds. After taking more initiative in Pac-12 play, Anderson is transforming his game into a more physical down-low presence.
Strangely USC has made 26 more field goals that its opponents this season, yet have been outscored by 34 points. In 10 of the last 13 games the Trojans have had as many or more baskets as its opponents, yet are only 5-8 in that stretch.
If the game comes down to the stretch, USC will be more experienced but UCLA has been more successful. Four of the last nine games have been decided by two points or less, with USC posting a 3-1 in those games. Nine of the last 11 games for the Trojans have been decided by eight points or less but UCLA is an impressive 5-0 in those contests since December.
Projected Starting Lineups
|G||10||Larry Drew II||6-2/180||Sr.||6.2||2.9|