Scouting report: USC
Game info: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Alaska Airlines Arena (10, 000 capacity).
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd).
Radio: KJR 950 AM and 102.9 FM (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Bob Cantu is 7-5 since taking over on an interim basis after USC fired Kevin O’Neill. Cantu has spent 12 years at USC. He was promoted to associated head coach by O’Neill in 2010. Cantu had been the longest tenured assistant in the Pac-12.
Prediction: Picked to finish ninth in a preseason poll in the Pac-12 by media who cover the conference.
Series: USC leads 69-68 in a series that began Feb. 26, 1925. The Huskies are 38-30 against the Trojans in Seattle. UW coach Lorenzo Romar is 13-8 versus USC and 5-5 all-time at Edmundson Pavilion.
Last meeting: USC led by as much as 19 points in the first half of its 71-60 win on Feb. 20 at Galen Center. The Trojans were up 40-29 at halftime and the Huskies never got closer than five points in the second half. Scott Suggs scored a team-high 16 points, Abdul Gaddy had 12 and Aziz N’Diaye 10. C.J. Wilcox never got going offensively and was limited to eight points on 3-for-7 shooting. However, he had seven rebounds, six steals and three assists.
Previous game: USC beat Arizona State 57-56 last Saturday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— J.T. Terrell (near right) scored a game-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting in the first meeting. He converted 4 of 7 three-pointers while also finishing with two rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes.
The 6-3 junior guard starred at Peninsula JC last season and averaged 24.4 points. He began his college career at Wake Forest and averaged 11.1 points as a freshman. He played in 32 games and made 18 starts.
Many expected him to make an immediate big impact with USC, but he said he had a rocky relationship with O’Neill that hindered his production. Under Cantu, Terrell has been more consistent scoring.
He notched a career high 22 points in Cantu’s debut and has scored in double figures in 13 of the past 14 Terrell is second on USC averaging 11.2 points. In the seven games prior to that, he averaged 3.3 points and scored in double figures in just six of USC’s first 15 games.
Terrell leads all Pac-12 players in conference games with an average of 2.5 three-pointers per game. His conference scoring average is 12.9. He’s not playmaker (0.9 assists per game). He’s been a reluctant rebounder (1.9 average) and horrific shot blocker (three total for the season), which speaks to his defensive prowess. However, Terrell does have 23 steals.
— Eric Wise wasn’t the most heralded of USC’s six newcomers. He transferred from UC Irvine last year and sat out the 2011-12 season. In his only season with the Trojans, the 6-6 senior wing has emerged as the team’s most consistent player.
Wise leads USC in scoring (12.3 points per game) and field goals (138). He’s second in rebounding average (5.8) and steals (28). He’s third in blocks (nine), assists (53) and free throws made (60). He’s scored in double figures in 22 of 29 games, including a season high of 22 points.
— Sophomore guard Byron Wesley is capable of big scoring performances, especially against Washington. He tallied a personal best 23 points last year during an 80-58 UW win. Wesley made 10 of 18 shots and had five rebounds in 36 minutes in the game. Rarely has he been that good. He’s topped 20 points just three times in career, including a season-high 20 point outing during a Feb. 7 win over Washington State. In the last UW-USC game, Wesley had seven points and four assists.
— USC is a team in transition. Barring a deep NCAA tournament run, Cantu isn’t likely to be retained. Trojans athletic director Pat Haden has reportedly began the job search. Rumors have pegged Pittsburgh’s Jimmy Dixon and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins as possible candidates. Former USC coach Tim Floyd admitted he met with Haden, but insists it was not about the Trojans job.
— USC is 6-2 in the past eight games, including road wins at Arizona and Stanford and at home against UCLA and Arizona State.
— Five of the first six games under Cantu were decided by five points or less, with two of them going into overtime. Fourteen of USC’s last 19 games have been decided by eight points or less.
— The Trojans are tied for fifth in the Pac-12 conference and theoretically they could capture the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with a pair of wins and an Arizona defeat. The No. 4 seed receives a first-round bye and advances to the quarterfinals.
— USC has averaged 69.6 points in Pac-12 games, which ranks fourth in the conference. The Trojans have scored 68 or more in nine of the past 13 games.
— In 14 wins, the Trojans have heled opponents to 37.5 percent field goal percentage and an average of 60.7 points. In the 15 defeats, USC’s opponents have shot 46.2 percent and averaged 73.5 points.
— The Trojans are battle tested. They’re one of four teams in the country that’s played at least 13 games against top 50 RPI teams. They’re strength of schedule is ranked sixth in the Sagarin ratings.
— The Trojans are a strange team in terms of how the roster was constructed. O’Neill abandoned the classic model of building a team with recruits and filled the team with eight transfers. There’s six newcomers and five seniors. There’s 12 upperclassmen with 326 games of experience. USC has four returning starters and four first-year transfers and everybody believes they’re good enough to start.
— Senior guard Jio Fontan used to be the face of the Trojans. However, he missed last season with a knee injury and hasn’t been the dynamic leader that O’Neill believed him to be. Still, Fontan is a solid point guard who averages 9.6 points and 5.1 assists. He also did a heckuva job defensively on Wilcox in the last game.
— Seven-foot center Dewayne Dedmon is tied for second in the Pac-12 with 63 blocks. His career high is six. USC is on pace for 157 blocks, which would be the third highest in school history. Dedmon transferred from Antelope Valley College and played 20 games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
— In the 16 conference games, USC has been called for 56 more fouls (304-248) than its opponent which has led to 41 more points (238-197).
— Two-sport star Zach Banner, the former Lakes High standout, joined the basketball team Jan. 3. However, he hasn’t played in a game this season. The freshman forward redshirted in football where he was a highly-acclaimed offensive lineman prospect.
C – Dewayne Dedmon, 7-0, 255, Jr., 6.4 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 2.2 bpg.
F – Eric Wise, 6-6, 240, Sr., 12.3, 5.8, 43.5 3PT-FG%
G – Byron Wesley, 6-5, 210, So., 10.6, 4.4, 2.0 apg.
G – J.T. Terrell, 6-3, 185, Jr., 11.2, 1.9, 0.9
G – Jio Fontan, 6-0, 175, Sr., 9.6, 1.7, 5.1 apg.
ROMAR ON USC:
(General thoughts) “They’re just playing. There a lot of players I called summer-league players. When they’re not with structure and they’re playing in the summer, they look like they’re All-Pro. But when you get them in structure, they can’t function within structure. Well these guys are playing like they’re playing in the summer. They’re playing with structure, but at the same time they’re playing so loose offensively. They’re having a lot of fun and they’re hard to deal with because they have multiple weapons that they can put out there on the basketball floor.”
(On the first game) “Cut it down to five in the second half and cut it down to six, but could not quite get over the hump. They went up on us in the first half by a lot of points. They were hitting on all cylinders. We couldn’t stop them from scoring. We weren’t doing a very good job ourselves. Our guys fought back, but it was just too much of a climb and we came up short.”
(On USC’s inconsistency) “I think they’re a team that if they’re behind, no lead is secure. But if they’re up, you have a chance to maybe come back into the game too. They just keep firing away. Jio Fontan is a guy that really hurt us before he hurt his knee. He gave us problems. He’s come back now. He’s a feared guy to have to defend. Dewayne Dedmon their 7-footter is now hitting three-pointers and hitting pick-and-pop jumpers. You know how long and athletic he is they throw the ball up at the rim and he goes and gets it. J.T. Terrell gets on a roll. He starts wagging his tongue and holding up the three-point signs and hitting jumper after jumper. But they’re most consistent player in my opinion, they’re best player and the heart and soul is Eric Wise. He’s the guy that’s a power forward and undersized, but is very effective. He’s very smart. Has a high basketball IQ. And they kind of feed off of him. He gets the big rebounds. Down the stretch hits the big free throws. Takes and makes shots for them. They certainly have a lot of weapons. And I didn’t mention Mr. Wesley who was not a great shooter last year and is now shooting over 40 percent from three. He’s a great scorer. They’re capable of going out and hanging 80-90 points on you.”