After finishing in 3rd place at the NABC Hall of Fame Classic, the Trojans (3-2) look to get a win this Sunday as they return home to face the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners (3-2). The game against the Roadrunners will be the Trojans’ 4th at home, with the lone loss coming at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Roadrunners arrive in Southern Cal coming off of back-to-back one point victories against the San Jose State Spartans and Weber State Wildcats, respectively.
Here’s what you need to know for Sunday’s matchup.
Opponent: CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners Game time: 4:00 PST, 7:00 EST Venue: Galen Center Watch: Pac-12 Network
PPG: 83.6 PA: 72.2 FG PCT: 49.5 RPG: 40.4 APG: 15.4 BPG: 4.2 SPG: 6.2
CSUB: PPG: 73.6 PA: 69.4 FG PCT: 42.9 RPG: 33.2 APG: 14.4 BPG: 3.2 SPG: 7.6
Key Players to Watch:
For the Trojans: Bennie Boatwright: The senior forward sat out the first two games of the season due to a knee injury sustained last season in February. In his first three games back with the team, he is averaging 17.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 1.0 steals per game. Boatwright has been a marksman from deep, shooting 58 percent on the year on 10 attempts per game. The Roadrunners are going to have their hands full having to defend the 6-10 power forward all the way out to the three-point line.
Nick Rakocevic: USC’s junior forward is averaging career highs in points (14.4), rebounds (12.4), blocks (2.6) and assists (1.4) on 30.8 minutes per game. The 20-year old from Chicago has provided a big boost on both ends of floor for the Trojans this year, filling the hole that Chimezie Metu left when he declared for the draft in March. Teams are averaging 33.4 rebounds per game against the Roadrunners, so Rakocevic looks to be very active on the boards in Sunday’s contest.
Kevin Porter Jr.: The crazy athletic freshman has been flying up draft boards recently with his stellar play in the Trojans opening games. On the year, Porter Jr. is averaging 14.4 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the field while adding 4.0 rebounds per game. He has scored in double digits in every single game, showing the consistency he has provided for the Trojans on the year. His ability to play multiple positions and score in bunches is going to cause a lot of problems for the Roadrunners in this one.
For the Roadrunners:
Jarkel Joiner: The sophomore guard from Oxford, Mississippi leads the team in scoring this year with 12.2 points per game. His 18 points against the ranked TCU Horned Frogs in their first game of the year shows his ability to score at the highest level and in the biggest stages. He will look to score early and fast on a Trojans defense that has struggled to defend its opponent, evidently, by its allowing of 72.2 points per game on the year.
Damiyne Durham: A redshirt senior who has averaged at least 20 minutes and 11 points per game since his freshman year, Durham is the definition of consistency for this Roadrunners program. This year, he is shooting a career high from three-pointer range (39 percent), while adding 3.5 rebounds per game. His height, 6 feet 4 inches, could pose a matchup problem for USC smaller guards as they look to stop him from slashing to the basket and shooting from the outside.
Rickey Holden: Standing 5’10”, the senior point guard is the team’s primary distributor of the ball, leading the team in assists at 4.4 per game. While great at driving to the hole, Holden is the team’s main threat from the outside, knocking down 2.0 threes per game at a 48 percent clip, a team high. Holden should be able to match up well with USC’s starting point guard, Derryck Thornton, who is of similar stature, while causing many problems for Southern Cal due to his ability to score and pass.
Although I think CSUB’s guards will cause a lot of problems for the USC defense, combined with the fact that the Trojans have had a very slow start to the season, I see the boys in Cardinal and Gold bouncing back from their early season struggles and winning big in this one.
Trojans 81 Roadrunners 67