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USC vs. Nevada: Game Preview

Can the Trojans get their first marquee victory of the year?

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Southern California at Texas Tech Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, the USC Trojans (5-2) will face the number 5 team in the country, the Nevada Wolfpack (7-0), in a battle of heavyweights. Southern Cal enters the game fresh off a 15-point win against CSUB, while Nevada is coming off a huge victory against their Sweet 16 opponent from last year, the Loyola Chicago Ramblers.

Here’s what you need to know for Saturday’s matchup.

Game Info:

Opponent: Nevada Wolfpack

Game Time: 1:30 PST, 4:30 EST

Venue: Galen Center

Watch: Pac-12 Network

Team Stats:

Key Players to Watch:

For the Trojans:

Nick Rakocevic: USC’s star forward is having a career year, where he has taken massive jumps in almost every stat category. He is averaging career highs in points (14.6), rebounds (11.7), blocks (2.7) and assists (1.9) on 30 minutes per game. The 20-year old has provided a big boost on both ends of floor for the Trojans this year, filling the hole star power forward, Chimezie Metu, left when he declared for the draft back in March. Rakocevic, the number five ranked rebounder in the country, looks to be very active on the boards in Saturday’s contest.

Jonah Matthews: The junior captain is a marksman from three-point range averaging 2.3 made three’s per game at a 41% clip. He too has made jumps in almost every statistical category. Matthews is averaging career highs in points (12.9), rebounds (3.9), assists (2.7) and steals (0.9) at a team high 32.9 minutes per game. He is a do-it-all type of player who can hit threes and slash to the basket at will, making him a massive problem for the Wolfpack to deal with.

Bennie Boatwright: The senior forward has been on fire this season averaging a team high 16.8 points per game on 53% shooting from the field. While his main skill is scoring, Boatwright is also the second leading rebounder on the team at 6.4 rebounds per game. His ability to play inside and out is going to make him hard to deal with for Nevada’s forwards.

For the Wolfpack:

Caleb Martin: A preseason All-American, Caleb Martin has been nothing short of spectacular this year. The senior is averaging 21.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on 45% shooting from the field. Martin has the ability to slash to the basket, shoot from the perimeter and distribute the ball. Containing this superstar is going to be one of the keys of the game for the Trojan defense.

Cody Martin: The other Martin twin, Cody, is spectacular in his own way. Rather than being a very good scorer like his brother, Cody is one of the best distributors in all of college basketball. He leads the team in assists at 6.1 per game while still providing a great scoring boost (10.1). Martin, standing 6 foot 7 inches, is going to pose a huge matchup problem for USC point guard Derryck Thornton who stands at just 6 foot 3 inches in comparison.

Jordan Caroline: This senior forward is one of the best players in the country due to his ability to score and rebound at a high level. Standing at just 6 foot 7 inches as a power forward, Caroline has still been able to rebound at a high clip his entire career with this year being his best at 9.9 rebounds per game. He’s also averaging career highs in points (17.7) and field goal percentage (53%). One thing that goes unnoticed about Caroline’s game is his ability to shoot threes and at a high percentage (40%). USC forward’s Bennie Boatwright and Nick Rakocevic are going to have to be able to guard Caroline all the way out to the perimeter or else they are going to have to pay for it.

Prediction:

The Trojans have played two games this year against high level Division 1 programs, the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Texas Tech Raiders, and lost both. Nevada, on the other hand, is coming off a season where they beat a couple high level programs to make their way to the Sweet 16. Nevada’s experience of having eight seniors on the team combined with their ability to beat the heavyweights, steers me believe that they are going to win this one pretty convincingly.

Nevada 85 USC 76