USC: DeAngelo Casto

Basketball: USC 60, Washington State 56

December, 31, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- Give USC defensive specialist Marcus Simmons five assignments and ask him to complete them in order, Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said Friday, and he won't be able to do them.

But give him one -- only one -- assignment and ask him to complete it exhaustively, and he'll produce the type of performance he did Friday at the Galen Center, holding Washington State guard Klay Thompson to 6-for-18 shooting and sparking the Trojans to a key 60-56 victory over the visiting Cougars in what players termed a "must-win" game after an overtime loss to Washington on Wednesday.

Afterward, O'Neill said Simmons was as good defensively as any player in college basketball. He also had high praise for the rest of his team for sticking with Wazzu late.

"I'm really proud of the way our team bounced back from a disappointing loss," O'Neill said. "I'm happy to win and beat a quality team."

Thompson, who entered the game 10th in the nation in scoring, finished with 17 points, but he never got into a real rhythm. Most of his points came on broken plays and he made only two shots inside the 3-point line. His 12 misses were the most he had this season.

He played a solid all-around game, collecting 10 rebounds and two blocks, but Wazzu clearly missed his scoring punch. It didn't quite look it, with Cougars forward DeAngelo Casto leading all scorers with 18 points, but Trojans big men Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson were key to the USC victory. Both players recorded double-doubles and combined to hold down the middle defensively, allowing USC to really focus on perimeter defense. In turn, O'Neill's gameplan worked well, as Cougars guards Reggie Moore, Faisal Aden and Thompson were all held below their season averages.

(Read full post)

USC-Lehigh: The final tune-up

December, 23, 2010
A few notes and things to pay attention to during tonight's game:

  • As we noted in the USC-Tennessee postgame report, forward Nikola Vucevic didn't have a great road trip, totaling just 17 points in the two games against Kansas and UT. How can Vucevic rebound? Well, playing against a team with only one key player taller than 6-foot-7 should help. It will be interesting to see if Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill goes to Vucevic early, as his performances lately have pretty much been determined by how he starts. Get going early, and he should be good to go. Re-establishing Vucevic tonight is important for USC, simply because it is his final chance before Pac-10 play starts and he'll be forced to go head-to-head with the Matthew Bryan-Amaning and DeAngelo Castos of the world.
  • And Jio Fontan? Considering his first two games in a USC uniform were against who they were against and considering he scored 15 and 13 points while shooting better than 50 percent from the field, he's certainly been a successful -- and necessary -- addition so far. Now the challenge is assimilating him into the offense a bit better, which we started to see on Tuesday but saw little of against Kansas, with his oddly-timed drives to the hoop in the first half of that game. Can Fontan be a true shooting guard, or does he need the ball in his hands a lot to feel comfortable? If so, maybe Maurice Jones should be the one playing off the ball. Jones did that his senior year of high school in Saginaw, Mich.; Fontan hasn't yet proven capable of that but still could. Where does Donte Smith fit into all of this? Surprisingly, the senior guard is scoring just as much as forward Alex Stepheson through 12 games. When Smith, Fontan and Jones were on the court at the same time against Tennessee, USC's offense seemed to run particularly well. Let's watch how it goes against Lehigh tonight.
  • The player to watch for Lehigh is guard C.J. McCollum, a rising sophomore who was the Patriot League Player of the Year last year as a freshman. By all accounts, he's an impressive player and truly one of the best USC will encounter this year. He's had only non-double-digit scoring game this season and three games in which he scored more than 30 points, including a huge 42-point outburst in a loss at Kent State the day after Thanksgiving. McCollum had a lethal 3-point stroke last season, at 42 percent, but that area of his game has fallen off somewhat this year. Of course, Lehigh made the NCAA Tournament last season as a No. 16 seed and was saddled with playing No. 1 Kansas in the first round -- a game they actually played very well in and a game in which McCollum posted a memorable line that included 26 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Other notable players for the Mountain Hawks: swingman Michael Ojo, from Santa Monica Crossroads School, and forward Gabe Knutson, a 6-foot-9 Iowa native averaging 12.5 points per game this season.

We'll have a postgame report on the blog.

Washington State moves ahead, 58-55

January, 21, 2010
Washington State has taken a 58-55 lead with 2:51 to go in the game here at the Galen Center.

The Cougars have outscored the Trojans 32-19 in the second half, with Nikola Koprivica and Reggie Moore leading the charge with 11 and nine points.

USC's Dwight Lewis has been held scoreless, but the Trojans got a big 3-pointer from Mike Gerrity and solid post play from Alex Stepheson to stay close. Marcus Johnson has a team-high 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

The Cougars have four second-half 3-pointers to the Trojans' one.

On a funny note, with 9:43 left in the half, WSU's DeAngelo Casto missed what looked to be an easy dunk attempt. The next time he touched the ball on that end of the court, he was at the free-throw line. The now-somewhat-rambunctious student section proceeded to chant at him "You can't dunk, you can't dunk."

After he missed the first shot at the line, the chorus changed to, "You can't shoot, you can't shoot."

He made the next one, and the crowd reverted to the dunk quip the next time he came to the line.



C. Kessler233162188418
J. Allen1509096.18
J. Davis733344.62
N. Agholor4853311.17
J. Smith2635013.51