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Saturday, February 27, 2010
Preview: Oregon State at USC

By Pedro Moura

Plenty of storylines to watch at the Galen Center today.

1. It's senior day. How will USC's three seniors — point guard Mike Gerrity and guards Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson — respond to the overall emotion of the night?

Lewis, now the career leader in games played in USC history with 130, said he'll be a "little emotional" after the game, but denied it would affect his play. Gerrity said he was just glad Thursday's game — in which he was held scoreless on seven shots — wasn't senior day.

2. The Trojans are coming off two straight losses. What can coach Kevin O'Neill's team do to prevent extending its losing streak?

The last time USC lost more than two games in a row was early December, but that was before the zone epidemic reached Los Angeles. Every Pac-10 team has been defending USC with a 2-3 zone since January, and the Trojans re going to see much of the same from Oregon State. Craig Robinson's team will be in that zone all game long, and O'Neill's team isn't well-equipped to handle that.

"We'll be playing all our games against the zone," O'Neill said at the start of his press conference following Thursday's loss. "And it'll be the goal of our weekend to try to bounce back from this loss and try to play a better game on Saturday."

3. Oregon State's a grudge match for the Trojans. They led by five at the half last time in Corvallis before collapsing in the final 20 minutes to lose, 51-45, shooting 39 percent and turning the ball over 19 times. What can they do different this time around?

"We had leads in the first half, leads in the second half," O'Neill said. "That was a case of just turning the ball over, which is uncharacteristic of us. We're going to have make sure

And for Oregon State, well, the Beavers (12-15, 6-9) are, in all likelihood, out of NCAA tournament contention, but a win today would go a long way towards giving them a higher seeding in the Pac-10 tournament. And with the conference as open as ever this year, a higher seeding could very well mean a Cinderella-esque run for Oregon State in the tournament — a la USC a year ago.

USC (16-11, 8-7) is still tied for third in the Pac-10, but in order to have any shot at a share at the regular season title, the Trojans need to win out. That quest starts today against the Beavers and continues next weekend against the Arizona schools.

Tip-off's at 4:30 on Prime Ticket. We'll have frequent updates and a postgame report, as usual.

Notes: Forward Kasey Cunningham will also be honored as part of USC's Senior Day festivities. O'Neill said this week that Cunningham, a redshirt junior, doesn't plan to return for what would be his fifth year of eligibility and will graduate this summer...Oregon State guard Calvin Haynes is hot of late, scoring 14 points Thursday against UCLA and 21 in a loss to Stanford last weekend. Haynes is averaging 13.3 points per game on the season.