USC: Josh Owens

Basketball: Stanford 59, USC 47

February, 12, 2012
2/12/12
8:31
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- It's getting to the point now where it's near-impossible to expect the USC Trojans to beat any opponent.

They'll compete the whole game and they'll stay within reach -- at least for the first half -- but they just won't win. There's not enough offense, there's not enough depth and there's not enough experience.

The lowly Trojans kept visiting Stanford close for almost 30 minutes on Sunday at the Galen Center but couldn't keep up down the stretch and fell, 59-47.

"This is the same old thing," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said afterward. "We had our chances, honestly. We've had our chances a lot.

"I thought we played pretty hard, pretty well. But when you're not making your shots, you're not making 'em."

USC (6-20, 1-12 in the Pac-12) is now nearing all-time worst status. The Trojans' most-ever losses in a single season came into 1988-1989, when they went 10-22. Their worst-ever winning percentage came in 1976-1977, when they were 6-20.

It's very likely they'll break both of those marks this season. With five regular-season games remaining and adding on a likely loss somewhere in the Pac-12 tournament, USC has to win four of its next five to not break the school record for losses.

Currently, the Trojans have won four of their last 21, dating back to Thanksgiving.

Stanford freshman Chasson Randle led all scorers with 16 points Sunday; Byron Wesley and Greg Allen each had 13 points for the Trojans and Maurice Jones added 10 points but on 2-of-14 shooting.

Player of the game: Wesley, a freshman, was assigned to defend Stanford leading scorer and senior Josh Owens for most of the evening and did an admirable job, according to O'Neill.

Owens, who has three inches and 30 pounds on Wesley, had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. But the Trojans' freshman didn't have a bad game, either -- scoring 13 points in 37 minutes.

He also added two assists, a block and a steal while playing his fourth-straight game of 37 or more minutes.

"I love the way Byron Wesley plays," O'Neill said after Sunday's game. "I like his aggressiveness. He fights hard."

10 of Wesley's points came in the first 13 minutes of the game. He was then shut out for 25 minutes, until the 1:35 mark of the second half.

Wesley attributed that to a zone-defense look he saw for much of the game's second period and couldn't quite figure out.

"They did a better job on him in the second half," O'Neill said. "They were more aware of him."

As he has often said this year, O'Neill said Wesley "has a chance" to be a "real, real big-time player" over the next three years.

Stat of the game: USC was out-rebounded 45-19 by Stanford, and the Cardinal grabbed 13 offensive rebounds off of 27 of their own missed shots. By contrast, the Trojans grabbed just one of the rebounds from their 33 missed shots.

The numbers are rare, and they are damning. Stanford started three players measuring in at 6-8 or higher; USC has only one available player taller than 6-6.

Quote of the game: "I think we have a chance going into any game." -- O'Neill

The Trojans' coach was asked about the feasibility of his team winning any one of its five remaining regular-season games, at UCLA on Wednesday, at the Arizona schools next week and at home against the Washington schools the week after that.

Predictably, he brought up one of his favorite lines, about how anybody wearing "short pants" can beat anybody else at basketball. It sounds nice, but it's going to be tough for USC to win any of those games -- with the Arizona State visit being the only real winnable one.

Final notes: Stanford forward Andy Brown, a product of Santa Ana Mater Dei, made his first career field goal in the first half of Sunday's game. Brown is a third-year player but tore his ACL three times over the last four years and never suited up for a college game before last month...Only two USC players made field goals in the first half of the contest, Wesley and Allen. And only five Trojans made anything from the field all game, actually: those two, plus Jones, guard Alexis Moore and forward Garrett Jackson...USC head football coach Lane Kiffin and family watched the first half from Galen Center courtside seats.

USC vs. Stanford: Win on a Saturday

February, 19, 2011
2/19/11
4:11
PM PT
Five questions -- well, four, plus a prediction -- that will go a long way toward deciding tonight's 7:30 p.m. game against Stanford:

1. Can the Trojans win on a Saturday?


It has happened only once this season, against Northern Arizona at the Galen Center in mid-December. These Trojans are, remarkably, 1-7 on Saturdays this season. There's little rhyme or reason to it, but it's definitely a certifiable trend by now. Think about it: on any day besides Saturday, the Trojans are 13-5; Saturday, 1-7.



Asked about the Saturday trend this week in practice, O'Neill laughed and attributed it to nothing in particular. The only possible explanation, he mentioned, is that the team tends to get cocky after winning Thursday games and then falls flat on its face on Saturdays, but that theory doesn't really hold up for those nonconference Saturday games that didn't follow a Thursday night contest.

We'll see what that means tonight against the Cardinal.

2. Will Stanford be able to shoot?


The Cardinal's performance in a January 65-42 loss to the Trojans in Los Angeles was one of the craziest things to happen in the Pac-10 this season. Not one Stanford player played well. Nobody made more than three field goals, nobody made more than five shots on the night, counting free throws, and nobody scored more than nine points. Cardinal junior guard Jeremy Green has consistently been shut down by USC stopper Marcus Simmons and averages only a tad over half of his career average against the Trojans.

Versatile forward/center Josh Owens is Stanford's only other true offensive threat.

(Read full post)

Basketball: USC 65, Stanford 42

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
11:38
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- If last week's games against Oregon and Oregon State were the softest USC had played on defense this season, Thursday's game against Stanford was the hardest.

Not one Cardinal player finished in double figures in points. Star guard Jeremy Green had five points -- 10 below his season average -- on nine shots. Freshman swingman Anthony Brown, who didn't get off the bench in Stanford's biggest win this season over Washington last week, had a team-high nine points. As a team, Stanford shot 22 percent from the field.

"We dominated on defense," said USC reserve guard Donte Smith, who was partly in charge of guarding Green.

The primary Green-guarder was defensive specialist Marcus Simmons, who once again did a superb job on an opponent's best player. He struggled on the defensive end in Oregon, but, as Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said, that was largely because he tends to take a "vacation" when defending secondary players.

Sort of like USC did in Oregon, actually. But that was fixed Thursday.

"We did everything that we didn't do when we were on the road," O'Neill said. "And that shows who we have to be as a team."

"Our players may not want to hear it, but that's who we have to be."

Nikola Vucevic led USC (11-8, 3-3) with 20 points. Guard Jio Fontan had 12 and forward Alex Stepheson added 10. All seven of the Trojans' normal rotation players scored. Other signs of Stanford's offensive ineptitude: the Cardinal (10-7, 3-3) totaled four assists, shot 17 percent from 3-point range and almost had more offensive rebounds (16) than defensive boards (18).

Said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins: "We didn't play well tonight and I think that was clear to everyone."

Player of the game: Vucevic was efficient from the field and effective on defense. He made nine of 11 shot attempts for his 20 points, recorded nine rebounds and added two blocks and two assists

Dawkins called him one of the better big men in the conference. O'Neill said he was simply continuing his solid play from the end of the Oregon weekend -- Vucevic was the only Trojan to have a good game on Saturday against Oregon State with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Stat of the game: Stanford made 14 field goals in 63 attempts -- good for that sparkling 22-percent clip, the lowest shooting percentage by a Stanford team in the shot clock era.

O'Neill tied that statistic back to the team's record. Hold a team under 40 percent shooting, he often says, and you'll win.

The Trojans did that Thursday.

Quote of the game: "It felt different without Bryce there. It was weird. But we knew that at the end of the day we had to man up and get the job done. We're gonna miss Bryce. He's a good guy, but this is a must-win for us." -- Smith

Freshman guard Bryce Jones announced plans to transfer from the USC basketball program Tuesday, so Thursday's game was the first the Trojans played without the 6-5 swingman. In his absence, freshman forward Garrett Jackson picked up his play a bit and contributed six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.

Freshman Curtis Washington also got off the bench late in the game and played four minutes, but it's unlikely he'll play much in the future. O'Neill and USC will likely just stick to a seven-man rotation, which will surely require some adjustment as the season goes on.

Said O'Neill: "We weren't discouraged by losing, we weren't distracted by Bryce's departure. The guys just did their job."

Notes: Stanford's bench far outscored its starters. The seven Cardinal bench players combined for 30 points; the five starters, including Green and Josh Owens, had a combined 12...Stanford's 42 points were the fewest scored by the Cardinal against USC since 1948...It was the fewest points allowed by a USC team since the Trojans gave up only 37 to ASU on Jan. 2, 2010.

***

Vucevic talked afterward about getting established on the offensive end, whether he was surprised that Stanford didn't spend much time in a zone defense and other topics.

See what he had to say:

USC-Stanford: And now they're down to seven

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
9:52
AM PT
Five questions -- well, four, plus a prediction -- that will go a long way toward deciding tonight's 7:30 p.m. game against Stanford:

1. How much of an effect will Bryce Jones' transfer have on the Trojans?

Judging solely off the minutes Jones played in USC's two losses last week to the Oregon schools, you'd say his decision to transfer will have a minimal -- if any at all -- effect on the rest of the Trojans' season. But it'll be considerate, simply because Jones was one of only three viable available options off the bench for Kevin O'Neill. If you thought the Trojans were stretched thin before, well -- they'll be stretched even further against the Cardinal. O'Neill has played up freshman forward Curtis Washington as an option to get minutes as the third man off the bench, but it has to be viewed as an unlikelihood that Washington will play any sort of meaningful minutes tonight.

2. Will Marcus Simmons be able to neutralize Stanford's Jeremy Green?

Simmons is certainly capable, although he wasn't at his defensive best against the Oregon schools. (Though, as O'Neill always says, the better player he's going against, the better defense Simmons plays.)

Green is Stanford's top scorer, one of only two Cardinal players putting up double-digit points nightly. A junior, Green benefited from playing alongside Landry Fields in the Stanford backcourt last season, but he's able to maintain most of his effectiveness this year as the lone wolf back there. His points-per-game average and field-goal percentage are both slightly down from last year's numbers. It's also worth noting that Green had his worst game of the season at the Galen Center last season, scoring only three points on 1-of-10 shooting against the Trojans.

"He's a level up even from some of the guys we've played," O'Neill said this week of Green. "But Marcus has been a tremendous stopper for us and we would hope he does the same kind of job for us on Jeremy on Thursday."

3. How much zone will the Trojans see?

In the past, Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins has expressed a willingness to go to a zone defense if a particular situation calls for it.

This situation very well might, with Dawkins' Cardinal squad facing a USC team that is clearly weakened against the zone -- be it the 2-3 or the 1-3-1. Expect Stanford to break it out at times tonight and force O'Neill to pick between the offense of Donte Smith and the defense of Simmons, a decision he has sometimes struggled with.

4. Will O'Neill's squad rebound defensively?

"It was the softest we've been all year long, in those two games," O'Neill said of the defense's play against the Oregon schools. "If you look at us, in the previous eight games, everybody was under 40 percent and we're 6-2. The numbers tell it."

He's right -- the numbers do tell it. And, luckily for USC, the Trojans get an opportunity to rebound against one of the more offensively-limited teams in the conference. It starts with Simmons locking down Green and continues with Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson serving as true anti-penetration presences in the key, something they sometimes struggled with in Oregon.

6-foot-8 Stanford forward/center Josh Owens is the Trojans' secondary focus, and O'Neill has no experience coaching against him because he sat out all but one minute of last season.

5. Who will win?

Said O'Neill: "If we don't defend, we'll lose."

He's mostly right. USC's offensive output against Oregon State on Saturday was fine. A game like that from Vucevic and Jio Fontan in the backcourt and the Trojans will be fine offensively. The difference-maker will be whether or not the Trojans allow 80 points again, as they did Saturday.

Our pick is USC by a margin between five and 10. Simmons stands a good chance of holding Green under 10 points, and Stanford doesn't have enough alternative offensive options to combat that.

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