Saturday, January 23, 2010
Preview: Washington at USC
By Pedro Moura
Tonight marks another matchup of teams coming off disappointing losses.
Washington lost to host UCLA, 62-61, on Thursday on a buzzer-beater and watched as Bruins fans tried to rush the court.
At just about the same time, USC lost control of a 15-point lead in the second half and suffered a thoroughly embarrassing loss to visiting Washington State, 67-60.
But tonight, the Huskies and Trojans will fight to salvage their weekends.
USC (11-7, 3-3) is struggling offensively — perhaps even more than usual. The Trojans' leading scorer, Dwight Lewis, averages a measly 13.8 points.
As for Washington (12-6, 3-4), its loss seems to be more of an aberration. The Huskies were coming off consecutive 15-plus-point victories over California and Stanford and offensive firepower hasn't been much of a problem for them this year.
Simply put, USC point guard Mike Gerrity will need to keep up with Washington's Isiah Thomas for the Trojans to have a shot. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Thomas is a quick, agile, and savvy combo guard — exactly the kind that can give Gerrity fits. What USC coach Kevin O'Neill attempts to do to neutralize Thomas could very well decide the game.
O'Neill said this week in practice that both of the point guards from the Washington schools would cause trouble for the Trojans. He also said the swingmen would, and Washington's Quincy Pondexter is right up there with WSU's Klay Thompson in terms of scoring.
Pondexter, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound guard/forward, is averaging 25 points in his last three games. He's also made 59 percent of his shots in those games.
Expect USC's Lewis to start on him defensively, but O'Neill will rotate Marcus Simmons and Marcus Johnson as well.
Again, the Trojans will need strong performances from their frontcourt to compete. The Huskies have perhaps the best backcourt in the Pacific 10 Conference — especially when you throw in third guard Venoy Overton, who leads the team in assists — but their frontcourt is marginal at best, with Matthew Bryan-Amaning leading the way at 6.9 points a game.
USC's Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson, putting up a combined 21.8 points a game, should be able to dictate the pace of the game.
Notes: The last time these two teams matched up at the Galen Center — last February — Washington trailed 50-48 with six minutes left. From there, Pondexter took control, scoring eight of his season-high 22 points from that point to lead the Huskies to a 60-51 win. ... Washington lost on a buzzer-beater by UCLA's Mustafa Abdul-Hamidon Thursday. That was the first time since December that the Huskies were involved in a game decided by 10 points or fewer. ... Tip-off tonight is set for 7:30. We'll have in-game updates on the blog.