USC Basketball Game Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils


USC Trojans (11-9, 3-4) at Arizona State Sun Devils (9-10, 1-6)

Head Coach: Herb Sendek (Year 5: 85-63)

Conference: Pac-10

Stars: G Ty Abbott, G Trent Lockett

Location: Tempe, Arizona (Wells Fargo Arena)

Time: 5:30 PM (PDT)

TV: None

Radio: 710 AM

Matchup: USC embarks on a three game road trip after losing to Cal. Head coach Kevin O’Neill described the game against the Golden Bears as a critical juncture, but the Trojans weren’t able to capitalize on the fact they were playing at home. The Men of Troy have lost three of their last four and would need a miracle to enter back into the Pac-10 race. As they take to the road, there are some mind boggling stats to keep in mind. The Trojans are 3-14 on the road in the Kevin O’Neill era and 2-9 in conference play. That doesn’t bode well for the upcoming weekend.

Arizona State limps into Thursday’s contest having lost three in a row and five of their last six. The Sun Devils weren’t expected to be a powerhouse after suffering considerable losses to the NBA and graduation, but they certainly weren’t expected to be in dead last at this point.

Against Cal, USC showed its limitations on offense against a zone. The Bears forced USC to take low percentage looks and settle for long jumpers. The Trojans weren’t very aggressive and didn’t bang the ball inside, and the results were evident in the stat sheet. With the exception of Donte Smith (who had a career night and carried the team), the Trojans shot 34.8% and 3-14 from beyond the arc. If USC isn’t going to attack the middle with the zone, they need to be better with their shooting. Arizona State traditionally plays zone, and chances are USC will see 40 minutes of it in Tempe. Earlier in the week, Jio Fontan said if he was coaching a team playing USC, he would play zone. If the Trojans hope to break that reputation, they simply need to be more aggressive. They need to make getting the ball in the paint a must, and use the collapsing zone to set up open looks. If the Trojans don’t, it could be another long game.

Arizona State’s scoring resides primarily with their guards. Only two players average double figures, and they are guards Ty Abbott and Trent Lockett. Despite playing 30 minutes per game, Lockett is shooting 55.8%. He can’t knock down the three very well (26.7%), but he is money from inside the line. One reason for the disappointing campaign taking place in Tempe is the lack of production from big man Rihard Kuksiks. After averaging double figures the past two seasons, the guard-forward combo was expected to be somewhat of a force for the Sun Devils. Instead, he is only averaging 9.5 points per game and just over two rebounds. Offensively, the Sun Devils don’t bring much to the table, and it will be interesting to see if USC brings its energy against a team without a talented attack. After all, Arizona State ranks 284th in the country in points per game with 63.5 points per game.

The Sun Devils are last in the Pac-10, but USC is on the road. Something will have to give in Tempe. At this point, USC’s at-large hopes are six feet under. Their next meaningful games will be in the Pac-10 tournament at Staples Center. Nevertheless, it is important for USC to pick up confidence and try to find its stride before those games take place.