USC Trojans, Sunday, January 15, Galen Center, 6:00 p.m.
The Crosstown Rivalry – some call it a war – resumes this Sunday when UCLA’s basketball team goes into the hostile confines of the Galen Center to take on USC.
Unlike in football, UCLA has the advantage in this sport, leading the all-time series 129-104, and when one takes a look at the two team’s respective records and statistics, it looks like Bruin Nation has little to worry about as Ben Howland’s team appears to be solid favorites.
It would be a grave mistake, however, for Lazeric Jones, Joshua Smith and company to take these 5-12 (0-4 in the Pac-12 Conference) Trojans lightly, for three significant reasons:
1. The fact that in any rivalry, particularly this crosstown one, all the stats, records and numbers mean one thing:
2. With USC doing as badly as they are to this point, losing this past weekend to two schools that the Bruins swept – Arizona and Arizona State, with the Sun Devils being severely undermanned – these Men of Troy have this to lose against their rivals this Sunday night:
3. The series has been even for the last few years, UCLA and USC splitting their last 22 games and last season’s two contests, each side winning at home.
Anyone who dosen’t think that coach Kevin O’ Neill’s team and their “Trojan Family”, the students, the alumni and the fans, will be extremely and pronouncely pumped up for this match will be sorely mistaken.
‘SC has a young team, with only one senior – who is on the end of the bench and rarely plays - on their active roster. Their indisputed leader is point guard Maurice Jones, who leads the Trojans with 14.3 points per game, 61 assists, and 30 steals.
Their front line is nothing to sneeze at, either; 6’6″ junior forward Aaron Fuller leads USC in rebounding with 6.2 boards a contest, and is second in scoring at 10.8 points a match. Spohomore DeWayne Dedmon is a weapon down low as he is 7’0″, averages 5.6 rebounds a game, and has 16 blocks.
They will be a concern for Smith and the Wear twins, Travis and David. Howland will need a good night from the three of them, as well as Jones and the other guards, Tyler Lamb and Jerime Anderson, in order to counter Fuller and Dedmon in the paint, contain Maurice Jones in the back court, quiet the ‘SC crowd, and leave the Galen Center with a win.
With their record currently at 9-7, 2-2 in the Pac-12, and in the thick of the conference race, UCLA has a lot more to lose on Sunday than USC does.
My concern is that if the Bruins don’t match and surpass the Trojans’ intensity, the USC band will be playing “Conquest”, which is what they play after every victory, and the students will be chanting, “Just Like Football!”
It is UCLA’s job, and their imperative, to win this game, stay in the Pac-12 race, keep “Conquest” from being played, and the fans from going delirious in celebrating.
We will find out on Sunday if the Bruins are up to that task.