USC, UCLA to face off at Sports Arena

From 1959-2006, the USC men’s basketball team played its home games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park, adjacent to the University Park Campus.

Rivals collide · At the Galen Center in January, UCLA defeated the Trojans by 19 points. The Trojans have won six games on the season and stands last in the conference, while UCLA is 14-11 and stands in seventh. The Trojans have just five regular season games left this year. - Luciano Nunez | Daily Trojan

But this season the Trojans’ crosstown rival, UCLA, has called the 52-year-old venue home, while its on-campus arena, Pauley Pavilion, undergoes renovations scheduled to be completed fall.

On Wednesday, USC (6-20, 1-12) will return to the Sports Arena for the first time in six years to face the Bruins.

“It’s an old building,” freshman guard Byron Wesley said. “I know it has a lot of history so I’m excited to play there.”

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a little strange, either.

“It’s going to be a little weird with it being down the street,” Wesley said. “But we still have to go out there and play hard.”

Through 11 games this season at the Sports Arena, which is roughly 15 miles east of UCLA’s campus, the Bruins (14-11, 7-6) have gone 11-4. UCLA’s most recent game was a 73-63 home loss to first-place California.

But whatever struggles the Bruins have had this season pale in comparison to those of USC. Currently, the Trojans have lost 13 of their last 14 games and have won just once in the months of January and February.

Following Sunday’s 59-47 loss to Stanford, they have lost 20 games for the first time since the 1988-1989 season.

“There is no fun in losing — for anybody,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said following the 12-point loss to the Cardinal. “And there’s really no fun in losing ugly. I’m aware of all that. But what we need to do as a group is keep doing our job every single day.”

What has given the Trojans the most trouble this season is scoring. Currently, they average 53.3 points per game, which puts them 342nd out of 344 Division I teams.

Such scoring difficulties, as O’Neill is often quick to point, stem largely from the injuries of several starters, redshirt sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon, senior guard Jio Fontan and redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, that have left the Trojans with just six scholarship players healthy enough to play.

As a result, most starters are playing at least 30 minutes per game.

“All these guys are getting a great opportunity to prove what they can do,” O’Neill said. “The more they can prove what they can do, the bigger their role will be going forward.”

One of those players is Wesley, who ranks seventh among all Pac-12 freshmen in scoring with 8.1 points per game and fourth in rebounds at 4.8 per game.

“I love the way Byron Wesley has played,” O’Neill said. “I really do. He fights hard. Whatever these guys do will decide their role in the future.”

USC lost to UCLA earlier this season, 66-47, its sixth loss in a row at the time, at the Galen Center, where the Trojans made 18 of 50 field goal attempts.

Tip-off  will be at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket.