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Preview: Washington State at USC

1/21/2010

In practice this week, USC coach Kevin O'Neill tried his best to give his team an idea of what to expect from Washington State tonight.

And what is that?

A lot of driving, a lot of kicking out, and a lot of shooting. Basically, the Cougars can score — a lot.

"They have a very talented team," O'Neill said after practice Wednesday.

Washington State (13-5, 3-3) has put up 87 or more points on seven occasions this season, but the Cougars have also done a lot of full-court pressing, using an athletic team to attempt to force teams into turnovers.

But O'Neill says his team is well equipped to beat that press. Against Tennessee last month, point guard Mike Gerrity ran all over the Volunteers and had 12 points and 10 assists in an upset victory.

"I hope they do press us," O'Neill said of Washington State. "I hope everybody presses us, because it helps us generate points. It works for us because Mike's so good against pressure and it keeps us from having to line up against set defenses all the time.

"Hopefully we get some easy baskets if they do pressure."

The Cougars' top two scorers are freshman point guard Reggie Moore and sophomore guard Klay Thompson. Together, they put up more than 35 points and seven assists per game. Thompson, a sophomore from Ladera Ranch, is leading the Pac-10 in scoring with 22.9 points per game.

"He's a big-time scorer," O'Neill said. "He can score inside. He can score outside. He gets to the foul line eight or nine times a game, makes other people better."

O'Neill said he anticipates assigning "lots of different guys" to guard Thompson, but he said senior guard Dwight Lewis will start on him Thursday.

USC forward/center Nikola Vucevic said Wednesday that he and forward Alex Stepheson have been preparing to provide help defense on Thompson this week in practice.

The lanky, 6-foot-6, 187-pounder has been to known to search for a mid- to-close range shot. USC's plan is to let him shoot, but not in the lane.

"If he drives, we just need to be there to help," Vucevic said. "If he jumps, we can't jump with him. We have to stay on the floor with our hands up, ready to take the charge if he goes at us.

"It's hard to score with us there."

Note: The late Rory Markas will be remembered just before tip-off, a USC spokesman said. Markas, the team's radio announcer for 10 seasons, died earlier this month.