The Trojans can’t afford a letdown now. On senior day and USC’s final home game this season, the Trojans take on Arizona State in a Saturday matinee that will be crucial for USC’s seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.
The Trojans are coming off an upset win over No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday. Now, USC (13-15, 8-7 Pac-12) is looking to avenge its heartbreaking 98-93 overtime loss in January to the Sun Devils (20-9, 9-7).
Saturday will be the final game at the Galen Center for senior forwards Eric Wise, Aaron Fuller and Renaldo Woolridge, as well as center James Blasczyk and point guard Jio Fontan, who is the Trojans’ longest-tenured player in his third season at USC.
“It’s bittersweet,” Fontan said. “I know I’m going into a bright future going forward with everything I learned here at this school on and off the court but, at the same time, it’s going to be sad knowing that I’m not going to be playing here again.”
In a 22-point showing against the Wildcats on Wednesday, Wise looks to have finally found his shot after struggling all February from the floor. He shot nine-of-12 against Arizona and leads the Trojans with 12.3 points a game. Junior shooting guard J.T. Terrell shot five-of-eight from the floor in the win and leads USC over the last five games with 15.6 points per contest.
Fontan, meanwhile, gives his teammates all the credit for helping in his role as the floor leader, playing more than 33 minutes a game.
“My teammates make it all easier,” Fontan said. “They definitely go out there and listen to what I have to say, and make the adjustments I want to make.”
The key to USC’s win over Arizona was starting strong, rather than letting the Wildcats blow them out of the water from the get-go.
“Any game, you need to get off to a good start and establish yourself,” USC interim head coach Bob Cantu said. “Especially at home.”
In true Cantu fashion, Saturday’s matchup should be a lightning-fast race up and down the court for both sides. The Trojans are coming out of an 89-point performance, their second-highest total of the season. The first? That overtime loss at Arizona State on Jan. 24.
The most challenging assignment of the night lies with Fontan, who will be tasked with guarding the Sun Devils’ talented freshman point guard, Jahii Carson. Carson is fourth in the Pac-12 with 17.7 points per game, and third with 5.1 assists per outing. He had 21 points and eight assists in the team’s first meeting.
The Trojan offense fired on nearly every cylinder on Wednesday except for junior forward Dewayne Dedmon, who had four fouls in his first seven minutes. Dedmon finished with three blocks in just 10 minutes, but will be looking for a more consistent game inside against Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski, whose 3.7 blocks per game make him one of just two players ahead of Dedmon (2.1) for the conference lead. Junior center Omar Oraby will be looking to avoid foul trouble too, after fouling out on Wednesday.
After Saturday, the Trojans head north to face Washington and Washington State to close out the regular season.