Basketball: Players remember 21-point rout

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
5:47
PM PT
A brief video and few notes to preview Sunday's game at USC, winners of the last three rivalry meetings:

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

UCLA (9-5, 1-1 Pac-10)
C Joshua Smith (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.8 points, 1.8 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (10.7 points, 3.5 assists)

USC (9-6, 1-1 Pac-10)
F Alex Stephenson (10.0 points, 8.7 rebounds)
F Nikola Vucevic (15.9 points, 10.0 rebounds)
G Marcus Simmons (5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds)
G Maurice Jones (10.3 points, 3.9 assists)
G Jio Fontan (14.4 points, 2.8 assists)

KEY MATCHUP

Joshua Smith vs. "Plug" Defense -- It took 14 games for coach Ben Howland to pull the plug on Smith's hedging. So it's only fitting that starting with Sunday's contest, Howland will have Smith "plug" on screens -- meaning he'll wait for guards to come at him rather than forcing them go around him. Despite ranking just sixth on the team in minutes played, Smith leads the Bruins with 44 fouls. He fouled out with nearly three minutes remaining in UCLA's loss to Washington last week.

"In retrospect, he should have plugged all the way from the beginning, getting better and better at it," Howland said. "He can't get out there and hedge right now like we want him to. He's not going to be doing that as much, it's going to be more of a plug. I think it will help keep him out of foul trouble. He's going to have little guards coming at him and trying to cross him over.

His habit right now -- and it's really hard for him to break it -- when you bring the ball at him and cross the ball in front of him, he reaches. That's what he's always done. He's going to have to learn not to reach and stay out of foul trouble. We need him in the game. ... When he plays 25 minutes or more, it's better for us. I think in the future he'll be able to (hedge). ... (Plugging) doesn't make it any easier. It makes it harder for the guards because now they have a guy turning the corner and they've got to be coming from behind."

ABOUT THE TROJANS

USC is 5-2 in its last seven games against teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better. ... Like UCLA, USC lost at No. 3-ranked Kansas this season. If we use each team's loss in Lawrence, Kan., as a measuring stick, then there should be an exciting finish at Galen Center on Sunday. The Bruins fell to the Jayhawks on a controversial last-second foul call; the Trojans led by two before Josh Selby sank a clutch three-pointer with 26 seconds left. ... Second-year coach Kevin O'Neill is 2-2 all-time against UCLA, with both victories coming last season. His two losses came in 2008 as interim coach at Arizona. ... Senior forward Alex Stephenson (North Hollywood, Calif./Harvard-Westlake) chose USC over UCLA when he transferred from North Carolina in 2008.

PREGAME QUOTE: HOWLAND REVVED FOR RIVARLY

"It's a big deal. It's always a big deal. Our guys will be ready to play, (USC) will be ready to play. There will be a great crowd, I'm sure. It's UCLA-USC. That's true in everything we compete with them in. So is there added importance because it's crosstown? Always. They approach it the same way. That's just how it is."

Blair Angulo | email

Reporter, WeAreSC.com

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