The USC Trojans have started a winning streak after getting a big road victory over New Mexico in a hostile environment at The Pit in Albuquerque. For the second game in a row, they doubled up on double-doubles down in the post from Nikola Jovanovic and Darion Clark. USC will try to make it three games in a row against crosstown foe Loyola Marymount when the Trojans return to the Galen Center Wednesday evening.
What to Watch:
No Deja Vu - In an eerily similar first half to the 2012 matchup with the Lobos on Sunday, USC got off to a hot start, building a double-digit lead only to see New Mexico go on an extended late run. USC took a 24-14 lead before New Mexico reeled off 13 of the next 15 points to take a 27-26 lead.
But in 2012, New Mexico continued the onslaught to take a nine-point halftime lead that the Trojans never recovered from. This time, USC battled back, trading baskets throughout the final two minutes and took a 34-32 lead into the break when Nikola Jovanovic scored on an inbounds play with two seconds remaining. While there are barely any of the same players on the 2012 and 2014 rosters, the fact USC didn't fold after UNM's run is a sign of maturation for the young squad.
They Call It a Winning Streak - USC lost its opener to Portland State. After six games, the Trojans were 3-3 alternating between wins and losses every game. But they finally were able to break that on Sunday at New Mexico and have a great chance of pushing that to five games before going on the road and traveling across country to Boston College. But first things first, USC must take care of business against a .500 LMU team with a first-year head coach.
FInding the Shooting Touch - USC has been pretty atrocious shooting the ball. Entering this week, the Trojans were No. 286 in field goal percentage and No. 302 in the country in free throw shooting. On three-point attempts, USC is shooting 28.3, which is No. 287 in the country. That percentage in particular starts with the team's top shooter, Katin Reinhardt. The Trojans' second-leading scorer is only shooting 29 percent from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc. Against New Mexico, Reinhardt laid an egg, missing all eight of his shots from the field. While he has been playing very well defensively, the Trojans really need Reinhardt to step up and make some shots..
Filling the Void - Despite missing freshman forward Malik Martin, who started the first four games of the season before injuring his knee during the Charleston Classic, the Trojans' front line has really come to life recently. USC has only three post players without Martin, but all three have stepped up to fill his void.
In the last four games, Luis Gavrilovic has scored 34 points and grabbed 23 rebounds (8.5 pts, 5.8 rebs). Against Penn State, Gavrilvoci set career highs in points and rebounds, nabbing his first career double-double. Starters Darion Clark and Nikola Jovanovic decided not to be outdone. After Gavrilovic's double-double, both Jovanovic and Clark have recorded double-doubles in back-to-back games. They were the first two for Clark in his career and the second and third for Jovanovic, who set a career high with 16 rebounds on Sunday.
The Switch Up - Freshman Elijah Stewart has already shown flashes of his immense talent. The four-star recruit scored a career-high 11 points on Sunday against New Mexico and he has already made the jump into the starting lineup for the last four games. Last season, Stewart averaged 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 blocks for Westchester HS and was named the L.A. City Section Player of the Year. But he didn't originally sign with USC. Stewart signed with Loyola Marymount, which is all of a miles away from Westchester High.
So how did Stewart end up at USC? The No. 40 overall recruit signed with LMU, but asked for a release from his National Letter of Intent after head coach Max Good was shipped out in favor of Mike Dunlap. When the release was granted, Tony Bland and Andy Enfield jumped all over the opportunity to bring in more athleticism, signing Stewart to the Trojans' impressive freshman class.
Old Face, New Role - Loyola Marymount first-year head coach Mike Dunlap is back on the LMU bench...just 29 years after last suiting up with the Lions as an assistant coach and 34 years later after playing his own college ball for the Lions. Since that time, Dunlap has been all over the country, world and professional ranks. He has been an assistant with several Division I programs, including the Pac-12's Arizona and Oregon. Dunlap has spent time as a head coach in the National Basketball League, in the Division II ranks and in the NBA with the Charlotte Bobcats.
One other stop Dunlap made? None other than at USC. From 1986-89, Dunlap served as an assistant coach under head coaches Stan Morrison and George Raveling.
International Flare - Like the New Mexico squad USC faced last, the Lions have a ton of talent from outside areas. For LMU, that starts with international recruits. It has eight players from other countries with six different nations represented (Nigeria, Australia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Zambia). Of the 12 players that are most likely to play for Loyola Marymount, only starter Matt Hayes is from California and only three players are from the United States.
Last Matchup: Loyola Marymount won 67-59 on Nov. 21, 2009.
USC led by eight points at halftime and as many as 12 points in the second half, but couldn't make shots down the stretch, going 0-for-2 with two turnovers in the final three minutes. During that same time frame, LMU turned a tie game into an eight-point victory with a 9-1 run to end the game. Jarred DuBois knocked down four of five 3-pointers and scored 17 points to lead the Lions while future NBA draft pick Nikola Vucevic provided a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for USC.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 7:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (Josh Lewin, Jon Crispin)
Radio: USC: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore); Loyola Marymount: KXLU 88.9 FM (Jesse Kass)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: USC -5.5 favorite, Over/Under: N/A
Projected Starting Lineups:
G - Evan Payne (6-1 sophomore)
G - Matt Hayes (6-1 sophomore)
G - Ayodeji Egbeyemi (6-4 senior)
F - Marin Mornar (6-9 junior)
F - Patson Siame (6-11 sophomore)
G - Jordan McLaughlin (6-1 freshman)
G - Katin Reinhardt (6-6 sophomore)
G - Elijah Stewart (6-7 freshman)
F - Darion Clark (6-7 sophomore)
F - Nikola Jovanovic (6-11 sophomore)