Trojans look to win second-straight contest
For nine straight games, the USC menâs basketball team failed to produce a single win. Then, on Jan. 28, they put an end to what had been a long losing streak while simultaneously picking up their first Pac-12 victory by defeating the Utah Utes, 62-45.
âIt was nice getting the monkey off of our back,â junior center James Blasczyk said. âIt shows us that we can win if we play hard.â
Now the Trojans will have a chance to do something they havenât accomplished since Nov. 30: win back-to-back games.
On Thursday night, USC will take on the Washington State Cougars at the Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum in Pullman, Wash. The Cougars (11-10, 3-6) have been nearly unbeatable at home, touting an 8-1 record.
Theyâre averaging 71 points per contest while sporting a 47.2 field goal percentage, ranked No. 48 in the country. USC coach Kevin OâNeill knows his team faces an uphill battle as it travels to the Pacific Northwest.
âWhat we have to do is play our best game on the defensive end and give ourselves a chance to score offensively by not turning the ball over,â OâNeill said.
The Trojans will try to slow down center Washington State Brock Motum, who is averaging 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds and most recently put up a career-high 34 points in a 71-67 loss against Arizona State.
âWeâre going to have to front his post-ups,â OâNeill said. âHeâs also a good outside player and he shoots the ball well. Heâs a guy who has developed into a real pro in the last year. Last year he wasnât a guy that was even a big part of their offense but heâs very talented.â
One of the players who will be responsible for guarding Motum, Blasczyk, is the only true center remaining in the rotation. Blasczyk has been slowed down by a ligament injury in his foot.
âBasketball-wise, itâs pretty difficult, but I always feel like my motor is going,â Blasczyk said. âI have a lot more responsibility but I donât really feel it. I just feel like going out there and playing basketball.â
Against the Utes, USC benefited from sophomore guard Maurice Jones and sophomore forward Garrett Jacksonâs combined 32 points. The Trojans will need more of the same against the Cougars, especially with a depleted roster lacking depth due to injuries.
âWith what weâre down to on our roster, with six scholarship players and four of our starters from the beginning of the [season] out for the year, itâs going to be a challenge,â OâNeill said.
Following Thursdayâs game, which is set to tip-off at 7:05 P.M. and can be heard on 710 AM ESPN Radio, the Trojans will finish up a two-game set in Washington by taking on the Huskies (14-7, 7-2) on Saturday. For now, OâNeill is satisfied with his teamâs preparations leading up to their next few contests.
âI thought the guys have been good,â OâNeill said. âTheyâve been good coming off losses, coming off the win on Saturday. Theyâve practiced hard, theyâve done their job, and I canât ask much more of them than that.â