What to Watch:
Bouncing Back - USC is now 0-3 with three blowouts in Pac-12 play after falling to No. 1 Arizona 73-53 on Sunday. To make matters worse, USC is going on the road where the Trojans have only one win this season. Head coach Andy Enfield and the players have said they have been having really good practices the last two weeks, so what can they do to reverse their fortunes?
It starts in the backcourt where the Trojans are turning over the ball way too often. In the past four games, USC has turned the ball over 71 times. Taking care of the ball is especially important on the road where you expect the crowd and the calls to be against you.
Calling Pe'Shon - Pe'Shon? Pe'Shon? Mr. Howard, are you in the building? Looking at the Pac-12 boxscores you might wonder if senior guard Pe'Shon Howard was even in the building. He's made no impact. The Trojans need him to be an offensive weapon in the backcourt to complement Byron Wesley's slashing creativity. In seven games from Nov. 28 to Dec. 22, he was averaging 15.4 points per game. In the four games since? He's only scored a combined 13 points with a pair of goose eggs!
American Made or Foreign Durability? - Except for two minutes early in the first half when D.J. Haley subbed in, Enfield went exclusively with foreign-born post players. Enfield opted to supplement starters Omar Oraby (7'2" center from Cairo, Egypt) and Nikola Jovanovic (6'10" forward from Belgrade, Serbia) with 6'9" Serbian Strahinja Gavrilovic rather than California natives Roschon Prince and Haley.
Haley's short stint on Sunday was the product of a left groin tweak he suffered in warmups. Prince, on the other hand, has played more than 10 minutes only once in the last month, and that was 13 minutes in the 34-point blowout loss to UCLA. Against Arizona State on Thursday, Prince didn't play at all in the first half and wasn't particularly effective in the second half.
On the other bench, Utah also relies on foreign-born post players with 7-footer Dallin Bachynski (Calgary, Canada) and 6'9" Renan Lenz (Santa Angelo, Brazil) playing important roles off the bench. The Utes also have their own Belgrade, Serbian in 6'11" Marko Kovacevic and have a fourth immigrant on the wing: 6'6" Ehingen, Germany native Kenneth Ogbe.
More Luis? - Gavrilovic, nicknamed "Luis," took advantage of a career-high 19 minutes of playing time on Sunday and produced his finest game in a USC uniform. He collected a career-high 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. Enfield said Gavrilovic plays the hardest of anyone on the team and he definitely played with passion and energy against the Wildcats. Will Haley's groin be healed? Will Prince be out of the doghouse? Or will we see more Luis?
Coach Killers - In a quirk of the schedule and Pac-12 Tournament matchups, Utah was actually the final opponent for both Kevin O'Neill and Bob Cantu. O'Neill was fired as head coach after USC returned from the same Utah/Colorado road trip last season while Cantu, the interim head coach after O'Neill's release, lost to Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament to end the year and was not retained following the season.
Know Thy Enemy - Utah is coming off back-to-back close losses last weekend. The Utes lost by two at Washington and then by three at lowly Washington State. They will likely be fired up to be back at home and trying to get back on the right path in conference play after going 11-1 in non-conference play.
Utah is ranked nationally in a number of categories thanks to several trips to Cupcake City. It leads the country in scoring margin (+20.9), but that's including an 84-point beatdown of Evergreen State (you beat a state of trees?) and 73-point thrashing of St. Katherine (what'd she ever do to you Utah?). The Utes are fourth in the nation in shooting percentage (51.3) and rank in the top-10 nationally in assist turnover ratio (1.62) and 3-point field goal defense percentage (27.2).
The Utes didn't challenge themselves with their non-conference schedule, but still took then No. 10 Oregon to overtime before losing by two. Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright can both score from the wings. Wright, the younger brother of Philadelphia 76ers forward Dorell Wright, is shooting an incredible 66 percent from the floor. He scored 27 points against Washington last week and had a 17-rebound performance earlier this season.
Interestingly, Utah's three starting guards, Wright, Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker, are all from the Los Angeles area. Wright attended Leuzinger HS in Lawndale. Tucker played at Gardena's Serra HS while Taylor went to Pacific Hills HS in West Hollywood.
Jan. 12 - USC 76-59 (@ Utah). In Kevin O'Neill's final game as head coach, the Trojans took it to Utah on the Utes' homecourt. All five USC starters scored double figures led by J.T. Terrell's 14 points and Dewayne Dedmon's 13 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Mar. 13 - Utah 69-66 (Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas). Despite playing without suspended centers Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk, USC dominated the paint 42-14 thanks to 18 points (and 10 rebounds) from Omar Oraby. The Trojans battled back from a 13-point deficit, but couldn't get over the hump. The loss was the final USC game for Eric Wise, Jio Fontan, Aaron Fuller and Ari Stewart.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 7:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (JB Long, Matt Muehlebach)
Radio: USC: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Brandon Granville); Utah ESPN 700 AM (Bill riley, Jimmy Soto)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: USC +10.5/Utah -10.5, Over/Under 135 points
- Breakdown - USC Blown Out For Third Straight Game
- Photo Gallery/Recap - Trojans Fall to No. 1 Arizona, 73-53
Last Road Game:
Projected Starting Lineups: