USC (9-4) at UCLA (11-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 5, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Pauley Pavilion (12,829) -- Los Angeles, California. Television: FSI. Home Record: USC 7-0, UCLA 9-0. Away Record: USC 1-2, UCLA 0-1. Neutral Record: USC 1-2, UCLA 2-1. Conference Record: USC 0-0, UCLA 0-0. Series Record: UCLA leads, 133-105.
GAME NOTES: A cross-town rivalry will be renewed on Sunday, as a pair of teams that made splashy offseason hires will square off when the USC Trojans meet the UCLA Bruins in a Pac-12 Conference showdown at Pauley Pavilion.
Andy Enfield, of Florida Gulf Coast fame, was brought in to head up the Trojans this year and the results have been solid. USC is sporting a 9-4 record as it gets set to open up league play, although it is just 2-4 in away and neutral-site battles. Still, the Trojans did not win nine games until Jan. 30 last season and had only six total victories the previous campaign.
Steve Alford's task was less daunting, as he took over a UCLA squad that was coming off a 25-win season. Alford's Bruins have spent some time in the national rankings and boast an 11-2 overall mark, including a 9-0 ledger at home. Alford faces perhaps his biggest challenge to date next, as UCLA takes on No. 1 Arizona this coming Thursday.
In a surprising twist, the road team was victorious in the two matchups between these bitter rivals last season. USC won, 75-71, at Pauley Pavilion, and UCLA picked up a 75-69 victory at the Galen Center. The Bruins have claimed triumphs in five of the last six overall, and hold a 133-105 edge in the all-time series.
Byron Wesley scored a game-high 20 points to lead USC to its ninth win last Sunday, an 82-60 rout of Howard. The Trojans hit on 55.8 percent of their shots from the floor, outscored the Bison from beyond the arc (21-9) and at the free-throw line (17-7), while holding a 48-26 edge on the glass. If their was a weak point it was in ball security, as USC committed 20 turnovers.
In the highly-efficient offensive conference that is the Pac-12, Enfield still has some work to do with the Trojans. USC is ranked 10th in scoring (75 ppg) and eighth in field goal percentage (.460). He has been able to coax greater production on the glass from his roster, as USC leads the league in rebounds (40.8 pg), ranking 24th nationally in the category as well. Wesley (17 ppg, 7.2 rpg) has been the player who has blossomed the most under the new head coach, as he is scoring nearly seven points more per game than he did a year ago, with 20-point efforts in three of the last four tilts. Pe'Shon Howard (11 ppg, 4.4 apg), J.T. Terrell (10.8 ppg) and Nikola Jovanovic (10 ppg, 5.6 rpg) are also key contributors.
In their final non-league matchup of the season, the Bruins squared off with Alabama. After a difficult first half that ended with UCLA trailing, 34-33, the Bruins got their act together with a 50-percent shooting effort over the final 20 minutes. Tony Parker scored 16 points off the bench to lead five players in double figures.
The scoring issues that have hampered the Trojans have not been present for the Bruins. UCLA is ranked among the top-15 in the country in scoring (85.5 ppg), assists (18.4 apg) and field goal percentage (.522). In fact, other than Utah, no team in the nation is shooting at a more efficient rate than the Bruins. Prolific scoring guard Jordan Adams (18.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.3 apg) leads the way. However, Adams is much more than a scorer as he can rebound and leads the conference in steals as well. Kyle Anderson (14.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.7 apg) continues to be one of the most versatile players in the country, and Zach LaVine (12.2 ppg) and Norman Powell (11.2 ppg) are other important pieces on a stacked roster.
It still seems like the Trojans have a ways to go before they are competing with the Pac-12's elite. The Bruins are already there and should prove it in securing a big win in their league opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 77, USC 67
01/05 10:47:41 ET