With resounding victories in back-to-back games against Washington State (9-12) and Washington (14-7), the Trojans are looking to close out their three-game homestand with a victory over crosstown rival UCLA. The win over Washington vaulted USC (17-5, 6-3) back into a tie for second place in the Pac-12 Conference, only one game back of Oregon.
This two-game winning streak comes on the heels of two disappointing losses to Oregon (18-4) and Oregon State (12-8). A few key adjustments as well as playing at home have really helped the Trojans. Against Washington State, the Trojans showcased their explosive offense by scoring 52 points in the first half. In front of a raucous crowd, the Trojans were able to push the pace and guard Katin Reinhardt was able to get many easy baskets en route to scoring a team-high 18 points. Another key that has helped the Trojans all year was their balanced scoring as five finished scored in double figures.
Against Washington, the Trojans looked to avenge their disappointing loss earlier in the season in which they blew a 22-point lead. They did so with their tremendous shooting and junior Nikola Jovanovic had easily his best game of the season with 28 points. The Trojans also did well in getting to the free throw line 37 times and hitting 32 of them.
In order to stay perfect at the Galen Center (13-0) and set a new school record for best start at home in a season, the Trojans will need to continue their offensive dominance. The last time the Trojans faced off against the Bruins, they came up with an 89-75 victory on the road. A large part of this victory was the Trojans’ excellent shooting and depth. The Trojans outscored the Bruins 32-2 in bench points led by freshman Chimezie Metu’s career-high 21 points.
An important key to winning this game will be the Trojans’ ability to share the ball and have multiple players contribute. They will also need to continue their hot shooting of late, especially from the 3-point line. Against the Bruins, the Trojans shot 45 percent from three with timely baskets keeping UCLA from making a comeback.
A final key to watch for is the Trojans interior defense where they have typically struggled. Senior forward Tony Parker and sophomore center Thomas Welsh combined for 43 points on 70 percent shooting the last time these two teams faced off. The Trojans will need to place more of an emphasis on preventing these two from getting easier looks inside the paint. Expect the Bruins to come out with a lot of energy in an effort to avenge their earlier loss at home. The Trojans will need to come out focused and feed off the energy of what will certainly be a packed Galen Center.