USC: Landry Fields

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.

Preview: Stanford at USC

February, 6, 2010
2/06/10
3:06
PM PT
Stanford and USC will butt heads at the Galen Center today.

The Cardinal got a career-high 35 points from forward Landry Fields in a loss to UCLA on Thursday. Fields is on a tear of late, averaging 30 points on only 17 shots in his last four games.

Stanford (10-12, 4-6) also has another offensive threat in guard Jeremy Green. Green, who scored 17 points the last time the Trojans and Cardinal played in January, averages 18 a game.

Together, Fields and Green make for a formidable combination.

"When you have two players of that magnitude — of that skill, you can beat anybody," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said after his team practiced Friday. "Any time, anywhere."

But according to O'Neill, Stanford's weaponry doesn't stop there. The first-year USC head coach says the Cardinal offer up more than a prolific 1-2 punch.

"I like their other players better than everybody else does," O'Neill said. 'They have good role players, guys who can make shots when you double Green and Fields."

In January, role player/starting point guard Jarrett Mann made the winning free throw for the Cardinal in its final-minute 54-53 win over USC, and role player/starting forward Andrew Zimmermann had a crucial 10 points.

Without those two, the outcome might've been different.

As for the Trojans (13-9, 5-5), a 67-63 win over Cal on Thursday showed that offense isn't completely foreign to them. In fact, four USC players scored in double figures — including 13 from guard Dwight Lewis and 12 from point guard Mike Gerrity.

The offense manifested itself in a 25-0 run for the ages that took USC from a 30-17 deficit to a 42-30 lead.

Reflecting on the run and the game as a whole, O'Neill and his players said the run started on the defensive end.

O'Neill estimated his team had the ball in its possession "probably 80 percent" of the time during the run. Just about every time the Bears managed to push the ball back, a steal or quick rebound would get USC back on the offensive.

"To me, when we get stops defensively, we're always more effective offensively," O'Neill said.

Tip-off' is 4:30 p.m. Prime Ticket has the broadcast, and we'll have in-game updates on the blog.

USC falls to Stanford, 54-53

January, 6, 2010
1/06/10
9:54
PM PT
USC fell just short Wednesday night in Palo Alto despite a whirlwind comeback in the final minutes, falling 54-53 to Stanford and snapping an eight-game winning streak.

Down 53-46 with 1:04 remaining, the Trojans got a jumper from Dwight Lewis, a steal, another Lewis jumper and a Leonard Washington 3-pointer mixed in with three missed free throws from Stanford to tie the game at 53 with 32 seconds left.

But Washington committed an ill-advised reaching foul on the opposite end, and Stanford's Jarrett Mann converted one free throw with 11 seconds remaining to give the Cardinal a 54-53 lead.

With no timeouts, USC (10-5, 2-1) was forced to push the ball up the court immediately. The Trojans had three shots at it — a Mike Gerrity layup and attempted tip-ins by Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson — but none went in, and the Maples Pavilion crowd went crazy.

In the end, the Trojans didn't lose because of what they gave up to the Cardinal — they lost because they couldn't produce enough offense.

Lewis had a game-high 22 points on an impressive 9-of-15 performance from the field, but other USC starters came up empty. Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson, and Nikola Vucevic —three of the team's four leading scorers — totaled nine points.

Gerrity couldn't beat Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins' zone defense and had a horrid game, offensively and defensively. Truthfully, the Trojans looked just as unorganized as they had in losses to Loyola Marymount and Nebraska — games they played without Gerrity.

The Cardinal gave up 92 points last weekend to Bay Area-rival Cal, but the Trojans found no similar success.

Marcus Simmons played very well as a defensive stopper for the Trojans, stopping Stanford forward Landry Fields cold in the second half. But Vucevic couldn't stop Cardinal post man Andrew Zimmermann, and nobody could stop Jeremy Green, who put up 17 points.

Fields still managed 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Stanford (7-7, 1-1). Zimmermann added 10 points.

Boneheaded plays plagued the Trojans on Wednesday. Other than Washington's late foul, USC also stepped out of bounds four times on the offensive end -- including one in the final two minutes by Marcus Johnson.

USC coach Kevin O'Neill was visibly displeased with his team on multiple occasions and looked more like the furious O'Neill of years past than the somewhat happy version we've seen so far this season.

Suffice it to say, USC has a lot of work to do. And the lack of a postseason as motivation isn't going to help.

Now, the Trojans must face a talented Cal team in Berkeley on Saturday night. The Bears lost to UCLA 76-75 in overtime Wednesday night.

We'll have live blogs for Saturday's contest as well.

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