The struggling USC men’s basketball team (10-15, 1-11 Pac-12) will take to the hardwood again tonight, this time as visitor in Palo Alto as they square off against the Stanford Cardinal (16-8, 7-5).
The two squads met earlier in conference play in a very competitive game that needed an extra period to determine a winner. In overtime the Trojans were eventually outpaced and fell by a score of 79-71. Stanford guard Chasson Randle proved to be the difference maker, scoring seven of his 17 points for the Cardinal in overtime. The Rock Island, Ill. native is one of the best scorers in the Pac-12 this year, averaging more than 18 points per contest.
The Trojans will be looking for their elusive second conference win following yet another loss over the weekend to Colorado. In that matchup, the Trojans were abysmal from the offensive end of the floor, shooting less than 38 percent from the field en route to a 83-74 defeat at the hands of the Buffaloes.
Senior guard Pe’Shon Howard was suspended for the Colorado contest for an unspecified violation of team rules, and sophomore back-up guard Chass Bryan started in place for him.
While the team results have been disappointing of late, Trojan faithful can take solace in junior guard Byron Wesley’s dominant play. Over his last five games, Wesley is averaging 22.0 points. This season he is the only player in the Pac-12 leading his team in both points and rebounds per game.
For USC to defeat the Cardinal, Wesley will need to have another strong performance. Additionally, freshman forward Nikola Jovanovic will be asked to have one of his better games. Jovanovic has been a pleasant surprise for the Trojans this year, averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
The Trojans are 8-1 in contests in which the Belgrade, Serbia native has scored in double figures. In their lone conference victory, on Jan. 22 against Cal, Jovanovic had the best game of his young USC career, scoring 23 points and proving to be an immovable force down low.
Jovanovic will get his chance to repeat his dominance over the Golden Bears this weekend; following the Stanford contest USC will make the short trip to Berkeley, Calif. to battle a 17-8 Cal squad riding the momentum of two straight wins.
Justin Cobbs is averaging 16.0 points per game for the Golden Bears and dropped 22 in last month’s game against the Trojans.
With USC’s current record, receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in March is out of the question, so the Trojans will have to hope for a dream run through the Pac-12 tournament if they are to take part in any postseason play.
The Trojans have not made the NCAA tournament since 2011, when they went 19-14 in former head coach Kevin O’Neill’s third year at the helm.
With only a handful of regular season games left, the Trojans will have to find some of their old magic to avoid a quick exit from the conference tournament.