The USC men’s basketball team will begin its final homestand of the season Thursday night, taking on the Washington Huskies (20-8, 13-3) at the Galen Center. The two teams find themselves in polar opposite situations — the Huskies sit atop the Pac-12, winners of four games in a row and 12 of their last 14, while the Trojans (6-23, 1-15) have dropped seven straight with only one victory dating back to Nov. 22.
The last time USC and Washington faced off on Feb. 4, the Trojans suffered their worst loss of the season, 69-41.
“Those guys are obviously playing great basketball,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said of the Huskies. “They’re an experienced group except for [Tony] Wroten. They’ve all been together. We did a good job up there [on Feb. 4] for about 30 minutes and then it kind of caved in on us.”
The Huskies rank fifth in the country in rebounds — 40.1 per game — and are also 35th in scoring at 74.9 points per contest. They utilize a three-guard backcourt featuring the aforementioned Wroten (16.7 points per game), Terence Ross (15.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game) and C.J. Wilcox (13.8 points per game).
“We know they’re real talented offensively,” freshman forward Byron Wesley said. “They’ve got some really good scorers — Tony Wroten and Ross — so we’ve just got to go out there, focus on our game plan, play some good defense and I think we should be OK.”
Wesley has been on a tear as of late for USC, averaging close to 19 points per game dating back to a Feb. 15 64-54 loss against UCLA.
“I’ve been feeling more comfortable on the court, just being out there and getting all these minutes,” Wesley said. “My confidence is just getting better.”
Coach O’Neill has been pleased with Wesley’s progress in recent weeks and will be counting on the freshman forward to once again produce big numbers to keep up with Washington’s offensive onslaught.
“Byron has developed into a guy that we hope is going to be a premier player,” O’Neill said. “If anything good has come out of this year, he’s become a guy who is experienced, hard-nosed, tough.”
Following Thursday night’s game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. and will stream live at USCTrojans.com, USC will finish off the regular season against Washington State (14-14, 6-10) on Saturday. O’Neill’s message to his team as they prepare for the Cougars and the Pac-12 tournament on March 7 remains the same as always.
“Do your job to the best of your abilities,” O’Neill said. “We know our circumstances, they’ve been in place for a long time. What we’ve got to do is do the best we can to try and win games.”