Texas Longhorns (6-1) at USC Trojans (4-4)
Head Coach: Rick Barnes (Year 13: 300-121)
Conference: Big XII
Stars: G/F Jordan Hamilton, F Gary Johnson
Location: Galen Center
Time: 7:30 PM (PDT)
Radio: 710 AM
Matchup: In the midst of a two game losing streak, the USC Trojans face their stiffest test of the year in No. 20 Texas. As USC returns homes, they will look to notch a quality win to their resume. The Trojans are not off to a very good start, and tonight’s contest may be a turning point much like the Tennessee game was in 2009. Even with a win today, the circumstances seem to dictate that winning the Pac-10 tournament may be the only path to the NCAA tournament now.
The Longhorns, led by respected coach Rick Barnes, come into the Galen Center with just one defeat to their name. Despite losing to No. 4 Pittsburgh, Texas has beaten a ranked Illinois team and five inferior opponents. They haven’t played a true road game yet, but the Galen Center isn’t exactly the most hostile of environments.
Offensively, USC needs to find other players to produce besides Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is averaging a double-double and carrying the team on the offensive end. Bryce Jones has played well so far, but the Trojans need him to be more aggressive and attack the basket. Furthermore, Maurice Jones needs to penetrate more often. With his speed, he can take a lot of guards off of the dribble. Defenders will need help, freeing up someone else for easy points. Late in games, scoring has been a problem. Since O’Neill only uses a seven man rotation, players get tired towards the end and the shots fall short. USC’s offense has looked stagnant the past two games, scoring 58 and 69.
Defensively, the Trojans will have their hands full. Sophomore guard/forward Jordan Hamilton is a beast. He shoots 47 percent from the field and averages 21 points per game. His range allows him to nail three pointers as well. USC may not have anyone who can guard him effectively in a man defense. Tristan Thompson can also knock down shots consistently. He shoots 53.8% from the field by getting position inside and creating high=percentage opportunities. Overall, Texas has three players that average double figures and many others who contribute mildly. Their depth is certainly a concern for the USC defense. While USC has used rebounding to key their victories, they can’t count on out-rebounding their opponent tonight. Texas ranks fifth in the country in rebounds per game with 43.9 and boasts many tall players. Plain and simply, USC will have their hands full and will need to play a stellar game to pull off the upset.