USC Basketball Game Preview: Stanford Cardinal


Stanford Cardinal (10-6, 3-2) at USC Trojans (10-8, 2-3)

Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins (Year 2: 34-32)

Conference: Pac-10

Stars: G Jeremy Green, F Josh Owens

Location: Galen Center

Time: 7:30 PM (PDT)

TV: None

Radio: 710 AM

Matchup: USC returns from the state of Oregon battered and bruised. The Trojans fell to the Beavers and the Ducks, two teams they should have beaten based on previous results. In addition, touted freshman Bryce Jones announced he was transferring after playing a meager 14 minutes on the road trip. After dropping two on the road, USC has now lost 14 of its last 16 Pac-10 road games. The only two wins: at Washington and at UCLA last season. For now, the road woes are irrelevant as the Trojans find themselves within the friendly confines of the Galen Center once again.

Stanford travels to Los Angeles after a surprisingly strong start to conference play. They whacked Cal on opening weekend and proceeded to hand Washington its first conference loss by upsetting them 58-56 in Palo Alto. In their last outing, the Cardinal fell to Washington State 61-58, mainly because they shot poorly from beyond the arc (8-25). For Stanford, Thursday night’s contest in Los Angeles marks just the fifth time they have been on the road. So far, they are 1-3 away from Palo Alto.

USC’s offense must find a way to solve zone defenses. Ever since Pac-10 play started, the Trojans have been unable to put up high numbers on the scoreboard. They don’t seem to get the ball inside enough and haven’t shot the ball particularly well. In Pac-10 play, they are averaging just over 65 points, lower than their out of conference average. USC can’t seem to get good shots against the zone. Whether its a guard shooting with a hand in his face or Alex Stepheson shooting from outside the paint, the Trojans haven’t taken high percentage looks. They also need everyone to step up and find a rhythm. At Oregon State, starters Maurice Jones and Marcus Simmons combined to shoot 3 for 16 in 36 and 31 minutes, respectively. Above all, USC needs to play with energy and a sense of urgency. Against Oregon, USC came out playing lackadaisical basketball and fell behind double digits. The team never played with enthusiasm until Vucevic got into an altercation with E.J. Singler. Against Oregon State, the Trojans started playing hard once they fell behind double digits, and by then it was too late. When you play in a big time conference like the Pac-10, not playing with urgency, especially when you aren’t one of the elite teams, will hurt you.

Stanford runs a 10-man rotation and sometimes goes 11 deep. This will pose a problem late in the game, when USC’s 8-man rotation (maybe 7) has already logged heavy minutes. For the most part, Stanford’s offense relies on two players. Out of the backcourt, Jeremy Green runs the team and is the leading scorer. He averages 15.5 points per game in over 30 minutes of action. The junior is the go-to scorer for the Cardinal, but he only shoots 39.4%. Marcus Simmons is a shutdown defender, and if he can handle Green, the Cardinal will be hard pressed to score points. Inside, Josh Owens is the man of concern for USC. He shoots a startling 60.3% and grabs 6.5 rebounds a game. Owens has the potential to wreak havoc. Despite having big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson inside, the Trojans have been outrebounded in the past two contests by smaller teams, and it has led to second and third chances. If Owens grabs offensive rebounds, he will have great chances to create points and lead Stanford to victory.

The Trojans at-large hopes seem dead, but the bubble is very fragile this year. A strong showing the rest of the regular season and in the Pac-10 tournament would put them in in the mind of some pundits. It is a long road to March Madness, but the Trojans need to get in to gear tonight if they hope to reach their destination.