After sweeping its three-game homestand, the USC men’s basketball team (15-9, 7-5) will take to the road to compete in conditions significantly less welcoming than the friendly confines of the Galen Center.
In the first stop of their doubleheader tonight, the Trojans will face Washington (17-8, 7-6), who is currently in a two-way tie for fourth in the conference. The Huskies post a Pac-10-best 16-1 record at home but have struggled to pull away in the standings after going 1-6 on the road this season.
“[Washington’s] energy at home in that building is unbelievable,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “The way they play at home is different. The second time around you play teams you change some things, and we’ll definitely make some adjustments. We’re going to have to make sure we control the tempo because if we play at their tempo we’ll lose.”
So far this season, the two teams have demonstrated polar opposites strengths. The Huskies, who average 81.1 points per game, enter tonight’s matchup ranked first in the conference and 19th in the nation in scoring but second to last in points scored against per game. The Trojans, on the other hand, are second to last in the Pac-10 in scoring but continue to be ranked among the top-five teams nationally in defense, averaging only 56.4 points allowed per game.
The last meeting between the teams ended in a lopsided 87-61 victory for the Trojans, who turned the tables on the Huskies and dominated offensively. Senior forward Marcus Johnson led the Trojans with 22 points as he shot 82 percent from the field, and all five USC starters recorded double-digit point totals. Washington was unable to find its rhythm offensively, as senior Quincy Pondexter was held to two points on 1-for-10 shooting.
“I know [Pondexter] didn’t have a great game last game, and I know at home he’ll be looking to score,” said Johnson. “He’s athletic, he’s strong and he’s real versatile. It’ll be a good matchup.”
The road trip is the second to last of the season for the Trojans, who only have six games left because of self-imposed sanctions prohibiting the team from participating in the postseason play. The Trojans have only won one game on the road this season, but they didn’t have to leave Los Angeles to do so — the win came against UCLA.
Nevertheless, O’Neill said he feels confident in the Trojans’ ability to travel, despite their road losses this season.
“We’ve had our chances. We’ve been very competitive in every game we’ve played in the conference,” O’Neill said. “I expect that we’ll give ourselves a chance to win going down the stretch.”