When USC defeated Cal back on January 7 at the Galen Center to earn its first conference win, there was some optimism that it might be the start of something positive. Instead, the Trojans (9-12 overall, 1-8 Pac-12) have dropped their last six games.
However, they have been more competitive, with three of the losses coming by four points or less and another by eight. They receive their second opportunity to face California (13-9, 3-6) and Stanford (15-6, 6-3) this week, as they travel up the coast to the Bay Area.
The victory over the Golden Bears in Los Angeles was a dominating one, as USC cruised 71-57. A few nights later, they nearly upset a very good Stanford team, falling 78-76. The Trojans take on Cal on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. PST and Stanford on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. PST.
USC may be on a six-game losing streak right now, but the Golden Bears just came off one of their own before defeating Washington State and Washington on the road last week. Guard Tyrone Wallace, who is third in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.7) and fifth in rebounding (8.0) led the way with 47 points in the two games combined. He had 21 in the first meeting against USC, but took 21 shots to do it (made nine).
Back court mate Jordan Mathews had 17 points. Nikola Jovanovic dominated in the paint with 20 points (9-of-14 FG) and nine rebounds. Julian Jacobs poured in 17 points and dished out five assists starting in place of the injured Jordan McLaughlin, who missed the game. The Golden Bears shot just 35.4 percent and were 4-of-20 from three-point range. The Trojans were only 2-of-15 themselves, but hit 17 of their 20 free throw attempts.
Prior to their 89-88 loss at Washington State last weekend, Stanford had won five of its last six games and nine of its last 11. They sit in third place in the Pac-12 behind Arizona and Utah.
In the first meeting against USC, the Cardinal blew a 13-point lead with under eight minutes to go, but held on for the win. Down by one with under 10 seconds left, Jordan McLaughlin slipped as he was driving down the lane and lost the ball, which allowed Stanford to escape.
The Cardinal were 10-of-25 (40 percent) from three-point range, the majority of which came in the first half when they came out on fire and scored 49 points. They only put up 29 points in the second half, though. USC's defense was better, but the Cardinal also missed several open shots from long range.
Anthony Brown led the way with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Chasson Randle, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring, was saddled with two early fouls and only scored 12 points on 4-of-13 from the field. He is shooting over 40 percent from long range this season, while Brown is at an astounding 46.5 percent clip. Rosco Allen was huge off the bench with 18 points, including four three-pointers. Julian Jacobs led USC with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
After missing nine games with an injury, the Cardinal got freshman big man Reid Travis (6-8, 245) back in their last contest. He played only 13 minutes and scored five points, but could present a problem inside for the Trojans, especially considering they have struggled against bigger front lines this season and are thin in that area. Forward Grant Verhoeven does remain out for Stanford, but Stefan Nastic was solid in the first meeting with 15 points and six rebounds.