Trojans look to upset rival Bruins in Pac-12 tournament
With one conference win in 18 tries and a 6-25 record overall, the USC menâs basketball team didnât achieve much success during the 2011-2012 regular season. In fact, in addition to finishing last in the Pac-12, the Trojans posted their worst win/loss percentage in school history and tied their 1977 counterparts for fewest victories in a single season.
But on Wednesday, theyâll have a chance to start anew in their opening-round game of the Pac-12 tournament against UCLA. USC enters the tournament as the No. 12 seed, and the Bruins, who ended up as the No. 5 seed, are the highest-seeded team to not receive a first-round bye â finishing behind Washington, Cal, Oregon and Arizona, respectively.
âIâm happy thatâs how we get to start off, because we want to get a win against them,â sophomore forward Garrett Jackson said of UCLA. âWe lost to them twice previously.â
The Bruins (18-13, 11-7) first defeated USC on Jan. 15, by a score of 66-47, and beat them again on Feb. 15, 64-54. Guard Lazeric Jones led the team in scoring with an average of 13.4 points, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the regular season. Jones also got plenty of help from his frontcourt â forward brothers Travis and David Wear both averaged more than 10 points per contest, as did center Josh Smith.
âUCLA is playing the best theyâve played all year right now,â USC coach Kevin OâNeill said. âLetâs face it â when we go through warm-ups, it will be obvious which team should win the game. To me, other than North Carolina, they have the best frontline in the country.â
The Trojans will attempt to counter UCLAâs talent with whatâs left of their roster â USC only has six healthy players on scholarship. Still, OâNeill expects a spirited performance from his team.
âI think our guys are going to be motivated just to play,â OâNeill said. âRegardless of who weâre playing on the other side, I would hope that our team responds with a great effort. And I think they will.â
Jackson, who contributed 15 points, four steals and three blocks in his last matchup against the crosstown Bruins, knows whatâs needed for his team to have a chance.
âWe definitely have to get in front of their post guys and limit their post touches,â Jackson said. âPut pressure on their outside guys, make it tough to get it inside.â
OâNeill, meanwhile, offered a more general outline of what it might take to pull off an upset win.
âIf theyâre on their game, itâs going to be difficult to beat them,â OâNeill said. âWeâre going to try to do what we did over in their place and try to make it an eight-point game with five minutes left and hopefully steal one. Thatâs our goal and thatâs what weâre going to have to do.â
Tipoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Staples Center. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net.