The USC Trojans are off to a 5-3 start after winning three straight games, including a big road victory over New Mexico at The Pit and following it up with a strong double-digit victory over the international-flavored LMU Lions. Freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin put together his most complete game of his young career, scoring 18 points (6-for-10), dishing out seven assists, grabbing four rebounds and swiping three steals.
USC will try to build on the performance and try to push its winning streak to four games on Sunday afternoon when it faces Utah State -- the team that gave head coach Andy Enfield his first loss of his Trojan career. The Utah State Aggies enter the game at 3-3 after losing three straight to Mississippi State, UC Davis and BYU.
What to Watch:
They Call It a Winning Streak - After six games, the Trojans were 3-3 having bounced back and forth between wins and losses every game, starting with a loss to Portland State in the season opener. But USC has finally broke that streak with three straight wins. A win Sunday against Utah State would tie Andy Enfield's longest winning streak with USC.
Knocking Down Open Shots - USC had its best shooting performance from three-point range this season on Wednesday against Loyola Marymount. The Trojans knocked down nine of their 21 shots and ran away with the game. Outside shooting is a part of the game they have struggled with all season, entering the week shooting just 28.3 percent before the LMU performance bumped it up to 30.8 percent, moving them from No. 287 in the country to No. 262.
It all starts with Katin Reinhardt, who went 0-for-8 from the floor against New Mexico, but bounced back against LMU to score 11 points and knock down 3-of-5 three-point attempts. He's now shooting 35 percent from deep and only 29 percent from the field. He has been the Trojans' defensive stopper on the wing, but USC needs him to knock down his open shots as well.
The Aggies are No. 26 in the nation in defensive three-point field goal percentage. They have allowed opponents to make just 26 percent, so it'll be important for USC to knock down the open shots and drive the ball to the basket.
Returning to the Lineup - Malik Martin returned from a bone contusion in his knee after missing three games to play 11 minutes. He was rusty, evident by a pair of airballs and three turnovers, but he also had a dunk and a nice driving floater that he banked in from just outside the right block. While Nikola Jovanovic, Darion Clark and Luis Gavrilovic all stepped up in Martin's absence, it's important for him to provide some depth at the position, especially if a starter were to get into foul trouble.
Offensive Glass Monsters - Even though Malik Martin has been out for a couple weeks, the Trojans have continued to be strong on the offensive boards. USC is currently a top 40 team in both offensive rebounds and offensive rebounds per game. Nikola Jovanovic leads the way averaging more than three rebounds on the offensive glass per game while Darion Clark also is averaging 2.5 and Luis Gavrilovic has more than two per game as well.
Ball Control - Utah State is one of the best teams in the nation at taking care of the ball. The Aggies have turned the ball over only 47 times in six games. Compare that to USC's first three games when the Trojans turned it over 56 times! Since then, USC has been really good at taking care of the ball, turning it over just 57 times in five games for an 11.4 turnover average, which still isn't quite as good as the Aggies 9.4 per game.
Transfer Town - The Aggies feature seven players that have transferred to the small school in Logan, Utah. While many of those players are junior college transfers, but there is also Lew Evans, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Tulsa where he started 22 games for an NCAA Tournament team.
Last Matchup: Utah State won 78-65 on Nov. 8, 2013.
In Andy Enfield's USC debut, Utah State went on a 16-5 run to open the second half to push its lead to 18 points and never looked back. The Trojans shot 37 percent and were a horrid 4-for-24 from three-point land. J.T. Terrell scored 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting and Omar Oraby flashed a strong game with 15 points and nine rebounds, but unfortunately, it wasn't a precursor to a big season for either senior.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 2:00 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Network (Jim Watson, Don MacLean)
Radio: USC: ESPN 710 AM (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore); Utah State: Aggie Radio Network (Al Lewis)
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds: USC -6.5 favorite, Over/Under: 127.5 points
Projected Starting Lineups:
G - Darius Perkins (6-1 sophomore)
G - Chris Smith (6-4 junior)
G - JoJo McGlaston (6-5 sophomore)
F - Jalen Moore (6-8 sophomore)
F - David Collette (6-8 freshman)
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)