What to Watch:
Inconceivable, Wesley - After being banished from the starting lineup and not playing until late in the first half against Long Beach State, guard Byron Wesley came off the bench against Dayton and showed why he is one of the Trojans' top weapons. He went off for 26 points against the Flyers, including hitting big baskets down the stretch in regulation to help send the game into overtime where Pe'Shon Howard won the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Wesley followed with 20 points and 8 boards against Howard. The junior just continues to improve his game every season, boosting his scoring from 9.6 to 10.2 to 17.0 points this season.
Playing 40 Minutes - The Trojans were only up 29-26 at halftime on Howard, were down 40-30 against Northern Arizona, and got outscored in the second half by Cal State Fullerton and Division II West Alabama. If USC wants to beat its rival, it is going to have to play a full 40 minutes. In each of those four games, the Trojans did enough in the other half to get the victory, but they have to come out with spears in their hands, ready to put down the bear early and maintain that intensity throughout the game.
J.T. for Three - J.T. Terrell scored 18 points against Howard in his first full game back since regaining academic eligibility prior to USC's Dec. 19 game at Long Beach State. Terrell's ability to stretch the floor and keep defenders from sagging into the lane to help against Omar Oraby down low or Wesley's attacking drives could be a crucial component to the Trojan offense going forward. The senior from North Carolina is shooting 33 percent from deep on the season, but his decision-making and shot selection was really strong against Howard and when he's taking smart shots, they usually fall.
Size Advantage/Disadvantage - USC is one of the bigger teams with a pair of legit 7-footers in Oraby and D.J. Haley as well as the lanky 6'10" frame of Nikola Jovanovic. But UCLA will have a definite size advantage on the perimeter with 6'9" Kyle Anderson and 6'5" Jordan Adams leading the way. Who are USC's smaller guards like 5'9" Chass Bryan and 5'11" Khaliel Dukes going to match up with if they get into the ballgame? None of UCLA's regulars are listed below 6'3".
Rough Road - If the Trojans won't to make some noise in the Pac-12 Conference, they are going to have to start early. They face a brutal stretch to open the conference schedule. After playing at rival UCLA, USC will host No. 1 Arizona and Arizona State next weekend before traveling to No. 20 Colorado and Utah. Those five opponents have a combined 57-7 record thus far this season and the Bruins, Buffs and Utes have yet to lose on their home court (29-0 in 2013-14).
Not Playing Like a Freshman - After USC's 82-60 victory over Howard, head coach Andy Enfield talked about the development of freshman Nikola Jovanovic and his love for the game to have traveled from Serbia for an opportunity to play at an American university. An enigma coming into the season (his high school stats are extremely difficult to locate and not very complete), Jovanovic continues to blossom before our eyes. In his last six games, the power forward with an outside touch is shooting 62 percent and has boosted his scoring average to 10.0 after six straight games in double figures. He's also third on the team with 5.6 rebounds per game and leads the team in 3-point percentage.
Know Thy Enemy - UCLA is 11-2 after non-conference play, but is not ranked after a fairly soft schedule. The Bruins don't really have any quality wins with their best wins were against UC Santa Barbara (9-4) and Alabama (6-7). They blew a big lead and a chance for an impressive road win at Missouri and were blown out in a game against Duke in New York City's Madison Square Garden, so while UCLA enters with a better record, it is still striving to prove itself as a top 25 squad.
The Bruins are led by sophomores Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. Adams is the team's leading scorer (18.5 points per game) after being second on the team behind Shabazz Muhammad, who was just sent down to the NBA D-League, last season. Anderson is behind Adams averaging 14.5 per game.
Both players are much more than scorers though. Both are capable of doing a little bit of everything. Adams also averages 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.6 assists. Anderson uses his 6'9" frame to lead the team in rebounding (8.7 boards) while being the primary distributor (5.7 assists).
The Wear twins, transfers from Mater Dei High School by way of North Carolina, and Tony Parker will be tasked with guarding Omar Oraby and Nikola Jovanovic down low. Zach Levine is scoring 12.2 points off the bench while Alford's older son, Bryce, will also see big minutes as the backup point guard.
Last Season: Jan. 30 - USC 75-71 (OT); Feb. 24 - UCLA 75-59.
UCLA got redemption last season with a 75-59 victory at the Galen Center, but the last time these two squads faced off in Pauley Pavilion, it was an instant classic. USC had a 23-9 run to take a 38-30 halftime lead, but let a 15-point lead slip away. Adams hit a jumper with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to overtime. But the Trojans prevailed in the extra period, scoring the final five points to take a 75-71 victory.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 12:00 p.m. PST, FOX Sports 1 (Justin Kutcher, Sean Elliott)
Radio: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Brandon Granville)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: USC +12.5/UCLA -12.5, Over/Under N/A
- Photo Gallery/Recap - Trojans Pull Away in Second Half Behind Terrell, Wesley
Projected Starting Lineups: