USC Basketball Game Preview: Washington State Cougars


Washington State Cougars (10-3, 0-1) at USC Trojans (8-6, 0-1)

Head Coach: Ken Bone (Year 2: 25-16)

Conference: Pac-10


Location: Los Angeles, CA (Galen Center)

Time: 3:00 PM (PDT)

TV: Fox Sports West

Radio: 710 AM

Matchup: After dropping a heartbreaker to Pac-10 favorite Washington in overtime on opening night, the Trojans look to rebound in what might be a must-win situation against Washington State. USC gathered momentum after a upsetting Tennessee and destroying Lehigh, but the wheels fell off as the Trojans offense sputtered in the final 35 minutes of the Washington game. They shot a mere 5 for 21 from beyond the arc and were outrebounded despite having the top two rebounders in the conference patrolling the paint. At 8-6, USC needs to put forth a very strong showing for the rest of conference play, and protecting the Galen center is an absolute must.

Washington State arrives at the Galen Center battered. After an impressive 10-1 start, the Cougars have lost two in a row, including an 80-71 decision at UCLA on Wednesday. Wazzu showed promise taking down Baylor and perennial mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga, but they have struggled as of late.

Klay Thompson is the trigger man for the Cougar offense. The 6′-6″ guard averages 22.6 points per game while shooting 48.5%. When teams play tight defense, the junior can be contained. Both Kansas State and UCLA held Thompson to nearly 33% by pressing him and forcing him into tough shots. The only other player who averages double figures is guard Faisal Aden. Aden averages 16.3 points per game and is a perfect compliment to Thompson. Marcus Simmons will likely guard Thompson for much of the game. Simmons isn’t a big threat on offense, but he is a shut down defender that can really kept Washington’s Isiah Thomas at bay. If USC can hold down the guards, their chances to win will rise exponentially. The Cougars shoot the ball well, ranking 16th nationally, but we saw Wednesday that USC has the ability to hold down good shooting teams. Washington State also isn’t a particularly good rebounding team, and the big men must be careful not to allow twelve offensive rebounds like they did against Washington. The second chance points really killed the Trojans down the stretch.

USC’s offensive success rests on the guard play. It is up to them to knock down their shots and make the three points they are given. Against Washington, Nikola Vucevic dominated inside, recording 28 points and 14 rebounds. Even with the dominance in the paint, the Trojans offense struggled because their guards were unable to create points. Marcus Simmons, Jio Fontan, Mo Jones, Bryce Jones, and Donte Smith combined to shoot 10-39 from the field and 3-18 from beyond the arc. The Trojans jumped out to a 16-4 lead early, but their offense was puzzled the second Washington switched to a zone. USC needs more consistent production from the guards if they are going to beat the conference’s elite teams.

Calling a game a “must-win” in December may seem extreme, but if USC falls to 8-7 and 0-2 in confernce play with 9 road games remaining, the outlook for the rest of the season would be bleak.