Arron Afflalo Hits Game Winner Over USC
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
No.4 ranked UCLA, winners of nine-straight games, hosts crosstown rival USC at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins (16-1, 4-0) are tied for first-place in the Pac-10 with Arizona State. UCLA swept both Washington schools at Pauley last week. Freshman Kevin Love was voted Pac-10 Player of the Week for his contributions in both games.
USC (10-6, 1-3) defeated Washington, 66-51, on Saturday for its first conference win of the season. Sophomore guard Dwight Lewis led all scorers with 17 points.
The 2007-08 season has been one of transition for the Trojans. They lost their top three scorers and veteran leaders from last season, Nick Young (Wizards), Gabe Pruitt (Celtics), and Loderick Stewart.
Trojan head coach Tim Floyd has reloaded with a talented group of freshmen led by one of the top players in the nation, O.J. Mayo. USC is still struggling with consistency and team chemistry, however, the Trojans should improve as the conference season progresses.
Since Floyd's arrival to USC, he has emphasized defense and this season has been no different. Entering this week, the Trojans rank 21st in the nation and lead the Pac-10 in defensive field goal percentage with 38.2%.
They held Washington to just 33.3% shooting in their victory. On the season the Trojans are holding opponents to 61.0 points a game.
The Trojans play both man and zone defenses, however, they are expected to play a lot of zone against the Bruins on Saturday, in particular a 1-3-1 zone. USC used this effectively against UCLA last season, in addition, its certain that Floyd observed how Michigan's 1-3-1 zone bothered the Bruins earlier in the season.
UCLA has executed more effectively against zones at times since the start of conference play, attacking the seams more aggressively and finding players in the high post. It will be interesting how they fare against the Trojans who have long and very athletic players especially on the wings.
Last season, the Trojans had supreme three-point shooters in Young, Pruitt, and Stewart , however, this year's Trojan team has struggled from beyond the arc. While they are shooting 36.6% on three-pointers on the season, the Trojans have struggled in Pac-10 conference play, shooting an anemic 23.6% in four games. Sophomore guard Daniel Hackett, who made 48.1% of his three-pointers in nonconference games, has missed all eight of his attempts in Pac-10 games.
The Trojans are shooting 47% from the field and averaging 68.1 points a game.
On the boards, Washington outrebounded USC by a huge margin, 42-28, on Saturday The Huskies grabbed 22 offensive rebounds in the game. In four conference games, the Trojans are being outrebounded by -9.2 a game, at the same time, the Bruins are a +7.5.
One of the highlights of this rivalry game is the match-up between the top freshmen in the country; UCLA's Kevin Love and USC's O.J. Mayo.
Although the two will not actually guard each other, it will definitely be the only chance to see these two compete in the same game in Trojan and Bruin uniforms since one, and likely both, will be headed to the NBA next season.
Love is averaging a double-double, 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, and with each week has shown improvement in almost every facet of his game, including the defensive end.
While Mayo (6'5, 200, Fr) is leading the Trojans in scoring with 19.9 a game - second best in the country. However, perhaps the most telling statistic for Mayo is the fact he accounts for more than 30% of his team's shot attempts, moreover, he has almost twice as many shot attempts (264) than the next player on the team.
Mayo has scored more than 30 points in two games this season, but the Trojans lost both games, moreover, in games which Mayo has more than 20 shot attempts the Trojan's record is 2-4.
He is an extremely talented player who can hit from outside and drive to the basket effortlessly in traffic. At the same time, he is prone to taking ill-advised shots or going one-on-one while his teammates stand and watch him try to create his own shot.
In perhaps the best match-up to watch on the floor on Saturday, UCLA's Russell Westbrook will get the call against Mayo. Although Westbrook will come off the bench, expect him to get his usual 32-35 minutes of playing time. Westbrook knows Mayo will get his shot attempts but he will try to make them as tough as possible while not letting Mayo take him off the dribble.
At the other guard spot, the Trojans will either start Daniel Hackett (6'5, 205, So) or Angelo Johnson (5'11, 180, Fr). Floyd started Johnson against Washington due to the match-up against speedy Venoy Overton and it wouldn't be a surprise if Johnson got the nod against UCLA's Darren Collison for defensive purposes.
Hackett has struggled with his outside shooting of late although he's still averaging 10.7 points a game and leads the team in assists at 3.7. Johnson is a quick guard who is averaging 4.4 points on 41.4% shooting and 35.7% on three-pointers.
Davon Jefferson (6'8, 215, Fr) is a very athletic player but has been inconsistent in his play all season. He's averaging 11.8 points on 53.8% field goal shooting and 5.5 rebounds a game. Jefferson has also dealt with team disciplinary issues, having missed four games for various reasons this season.
A tough match-up when he's focused, Jefferson can attack the basket, in addition, his size and length can cause problems on defense. Alfred Aboya will get the initial start against Jefferson but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will likely get the most minutes against him, especially if he has healed from a groin pull injury he suffered at practice on Monday. If Mbah a Moute is unable to contribute significant minutes, then sophomore James Keefe will log major minutes.
At the wing spot is Dwight Lewis (6'5, 215, So), a returning starter from last season, he has been solid this season, averaging 11.1 points on 49.6% shooting and 34.2% from three point distance. Lewis is constantly moving and cutting, usually finding himself around the ball. He is good defender and perhaps the most consistent player on the team, providing stability on a young club. Lewis and Josh Shipp will likely lock horns for most of the contest.
While center Taj Gibson (6'9, 225, So) has been effective, all his numbers are down from his standout freshman season. Gibson's point production is down from 12.2 to 9.4 points and his rebounds down from 8.7 to 8.0. He was a key low post presence on the team last season, and if the Trojans are to improve they'll need to do a better job to involve him in the offense.
Gibson is a good shot-blocker (2.1) with quick jumping ability, however at 225 lb, he may have difficulty handling Love in the low post, especially the way Love has been operating in the low post of late. In addition, Gibson is very foul-prone, having already fouled out of four games this season.
The Trojans do have size off the bench, and it wouldn't be surprising if Floyd uses a rotation of Keith Wilkinson (6'10, 225, Jr), Rouseau Cromwell 6'11, 225, Jr), and Mamadou Diarra (7'0, 230, Fr) to expend all their fouls on Love during the course of the game to wear out the freshman.
UCLA has been playing their best ball of the season since the start of Pac-10 conference play, in particular freshman Kevin Love has stepped it up a notch over the last four games.
While the Trojans have already lost three conference games, their defense, athleticism and potential explosiveness on offense makes them a dangerous club on any given night.
This same USC team, which lost their season opener to lowly Mercer, also had the ability take No.2 ranked Memphis and No.3 ranked Kansas down to the wire, losing by just four points to both team.
Date: Jan. 19
Time: 12:30 PM PT
Place: Pauley Pavilion
Radio: AM 570
(photo credit: USC athletics)
Labels: Game Previews