USC Trojans: Basketball

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Trojans hopeful for big improvement

November, 9, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- It's safe to assume that head coach Kevin O’Neill would just as soon forget the 2011-2012 USC men’s basketball season altogether. Hit hard by injuries, the Trojans were flat-out difficult to watch at times as they struggled in just about every phase of the game, ultimately finishing with just six wins and a school-record 26 losses, including just one victory in Pac-12 play.

[+] EnlargeUSC's Jio Fontan
Greg Bartram/US PRESSWIREThe return of point guard Jio Fontan, who missed last season due to injury, will be a big boost for the Trojans.
In looking at the upcoming season then, the first bit of good news would appear to be that the only way for O’Neill’s squad to go is up.

And while the Trojans were picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 preseason poll, indications point toward a much improved team in 2012-2013. To bring an up-tempo and much more physical brand of play to the fold that simply wasn't possible a year ago with such a depleted roster, but the Trojans are a collection of unfamiliar faces that O’Neill believes could exceed all expectations.

“Overall, I couldn’t be more impressed with our group so far,” O’Neill said. “We’ll see what happens going forward, but I like what I’ve seen out of them in terms of maturity, and I like what I’ve seen out of them in terms of them being a work team. And those are the things that are going to be important for us.”

But perhaps the biggest individual reason for O’Neill’s optimism is the player that he’ll having running the show at point guard, Jio Fontan.

Maurice Jones -- last season's starting point man -- transferred to Iowa State, but the Trojans undoubtedly get better at the position with the return of Fontan, who missed last season after suffering a torn ACL. A true court general who averaged 10.5 points and 3.9 assists per game two years ago, the senior leader can do it all -- shoot, distribute the ball and play lights-out defense.

“I feel like we have the best point guard in the league -- I would say that anytime, anywhere -- in Jio,” O’Neill said.

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Basketball recruiting rankings released

May, 24, 2012

The ESPN RecruitingNation team has released its basketball recruiting rankings for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 classes. Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon), Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood) and Andrew Harrison (Richmond, Texas/Travis) are the top three prospects in the ESPN 100. Read more about how the rankings were complied here.

View the 2013 ESPN 100 here
View the 2014 ESPN 60 here
View the 2015 ESPN 25 here

Woolridge signs with USC 

April, 28, 2012
The USC Trojans put the finishing touches on their 2012-13 men's basketball roster Saturday, as transfer Renaldo Woolridge signed with USC. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound Woolridge will graduate from Tennessee this summer and have one year of immediate eligibility at USC.

Last season, Woolridge averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game for the Volunteers. While Woolridge never blossomed in an offensive threat at Tennessee, he will serve as a much-needed big man for the Trojans, playing alongside center DeWayne Dedmon or providing depth off the bench. The signing gives USC the full allotment of 13 scholarship players for the upcoming season.
For the second time in a matter of weeks, an Arizona guard has decommitted from USC. Larry Lewis (Scottsdale, Ariz./Arcadia) joins Dewayne Russell (Peoria, Ariz./Peoria) as players the Trojans have lost from the 2012 class this March.

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USC has granted sophomore forward Garrett Jackson permission to transfer, the school announced Wednesday afternoon.

Jackson averaged 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds this season, but came on strong toward the end of the year, scoring in double figures in eight of the final 13 games.

"Garrett did a great job here for two years," USC head coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement released by USC. "He is a great guy, did a good job in the classroom and we wish him the best in everything."

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Dewayne DedmonAP Photo/Jason RedmondGetting the ball in the basket has been a chore for Dewayne Dedmon and the rest of USC's basketball team, which is averaging a paltry 53.9 points per game this season.

LOS ANGELES -- After losing five of their top seven scorers from last season’s team, the USC men’s basketball team was expected to struggle offensively. When team leader Jio Fontan went down with a knee injury during a preseason exhibition game in Brazil, thoughts shifted to whether the Trojans would be able to score at all.

USC coach Kevin O’Neill echoed those sentiments during Pac-12 media day, when his said his team would continue to play tough defense, but baskets would likely be scarce. O’Neill spoke at length about how the Trojans would lean heavily on point guard Maurice Jones and how they’d go only as far as the sophomore point guard could take them.

Through 17 games, it hasn’t been very far. Jones has played much of this season as if he has been forced to literally carry the team on his back. He has been asked to play point guard and be the team’s leading scorer -- a combination that doesn’t often lead to successful offense. He has also rarely been able to catch his breath, as he has played fewer than 35 minutes in just one game this season.

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USC falls short at Cal, 53-49

December, 29, 2011
Despite a valiant second-half comeback, the USC Trojans (5-9 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) couldn't overcome the California Golden Bears (11-3, 1-0), falling 53-49 in the conference opener for both teams.

Trailing by 10 points with 5:24 to play, USC closed to 50-49 with 44 seconds remaining on the strength of an an 11-2 run. The Trojans elected to play defense rather than foul during the final Cal possession and were rewarded with a block by center Dewayne Dedmon with 10 seconds remaining. But Cal's Allen Crabbe grabbed the rebound and was fouled during a 3-point attempt, and the subsequent free throws provided the final margin.

The Trojans trailed 31-19 at halftime, thanks to another 20 minutes of offensive struggles. USC shot 33.3 percent from the field and missed all four of their 3-point attempts to go along with nine turnovers. USC shot 33.9 percent from the floor in the game and just 46.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Sophomore point guard Maurice Jones once again led the Trojans with 17 points -- the only USC player to score in double figures. He added four steals and four assists. Aaron Fuller scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The USC Trojans (5-8) begin Pac-12 play Thursday, as they travel to Haas Pavilion to take on the California Golden Bears (10-3) at 6 p.m. PT.

To say the Trojans have struggled offensively this season after losing senior guard Jio Fontan to a preseason knee injury would be an understatement. USC has scored more than 66 points just once this season and have been held to fewer than 42 points on three occasions.

USC ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring (55.8 points per game), assists (9.7), 3-pointers made (4.3), rebounds (29.3), free throws made (10) and free throws attempted (16.4) per game. The Trojans also rank last in the conference in field goal percentage (.419) and free throw percentage (.610), Sophomore point guard Maurice Jones leads the Trojans with 14.9 points per game, while junior Aaron Fuller averages 11.9 points.

The Bears will rely on a talented backcourt that features their three leading scorers, guards Allen Crabbe (15.8 points per game), Jorge Gutierrez (13.8 points) and Justin Cobbs (12.6 points).

It has been a very slow start for the Trojans -- as well as the Pac-12 in general -- but USC will look to begin generating some momentum as the conference slate gets underway.

USC knocks off UC Riverside

November, 30, 2011
Utilizing their usual stingy defense, the USC Trojans (4-4) held UC Riverside (2-5) to just 11 points in the second half and were able to cruise to a 56-35 victory.

The 35 points were the fewest allowed by the Trojans this season, as Greg Allen (11 points, three 3-pointers) and Alexis Moore (10 points) paced them offensively. It was a balanced attack with center Dewayne Dedmon out with a foot injury, as Aaron Fuller scored nine points and Byron Wesley and Garrett Jackson each finished with eight.

Defensively, the Trojans forced 15 turnovers and held the Highlanders to 34 percent from the floor.

This was USC's second consecutive win after three straight losses, including a very disappointing defeat at the hands of Cal Poly. The Trojans will look to continue their current winning streak as they travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers this Saturday.

Another late loss for USC hoops 

November, 17, 2011
For the second consecutive game, the USC Trojans couldn't quite find enough late-game heroics, as they fell to San Diego State, 56-54.

Down nine points late in the game, sophomore Garrett Jackson knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Trojans to 54-51 with 1:27 remaining. Point guard Maurice Jones completed the comeback with 6.8 seconds left, banking in a deep 3-pointer.

But a defensive lapse allowed Aztecs point guard Xavier Thames to go the length of the court and finish an easy layup with 1.8 seconds left, giving San Diego State the victory. The Trojans have lost their two games this season by a combined five points.

The Trojans (1-2) will return home to take on Cal Poly (1-1) Saturday at 1 p.m.

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USC falls to Nebraska in double OT 

November, 14, 2011
After the USC Trojans missed shots that would have won the game at the end of regulation and the first overtime, the Nebraska Cornhuskers scored eight consecutive points in the second overtime and held on for a 64-61 win, dropping the Trojans to 1-1.

USC center Dewayne Dedmon had a chance to win the game in regulation after Aaron Fuller wrestled for an offensive rebound, getting the Trojansa final possession with 19 seconds remaining. Maurice Jones found Dedmon alone at the free-throw line with one second on the clock, but his shot bounced off the rim.

The end of the first overtime period was just as hectic. After Jones banked in a running jumper with seven seconds remaining to give USC a 54-52 lead, Nebraska was the beneficiary of a bang-bang call just across midcourt, as Toney McCray charged into USC freshman Alexis Moore, with Moore whistled for a blocking foul. The subsequent free throws knotted the game and a long 3-point attempt from Jones rattled off the rim at the buzzer.

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USC hoops holds on for 66-59 win 

November, 12, 2011
It wasn’t pretty, but the USC Trojans won their season opener for the fourth consecutive season, coming away with a 66-59 victory over Cal State Northridge on Friday night.

Despite holding the Matadors to 25 percent shooting from the floor, the Trojans could never take full control of the game, thanks to 19 turnovers and missing all 15 of their 3-point attempts.

USC coach Kevin O’Neill has been adamant in his stance that the Trojans will only be as good as sophomore point guard Maurice Jones this season, and that was evident in the first game of the year. Jones didn’t have his best offensive game, as he made just one of his first 12 shots. But when Northridge clawed their way back from a 13-point deficit to take a 54-52 lead with less than four minutes remaining, Jones converted a three-point play to give the Trojans a 55-54 lead, which they would not relinquish. Jones went on to score eight of USC's final 12 points.

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USC basketball signs two 

November, 9, 2011
USC coach Kevin O'Neill announced that the Trojans men's basketball program has received signed National Letters of Intent from guard T.J. Terrell (Port Angeles, Wash./Peninsula JC) and forward Strahinja Gavrilovic (La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla Prep).

Terrell played as a true freshman for Wake Forest last season before transferring. He averaged 11.1 points per game, including a season-best 32 points against Iowa. As a high school senior, Terrell was ranked the No. 49 prospect in the country by ESPN.

“J.T. is a dynamic scorer that will be able to impact our team offensively next year,” said O’Neill in a press release. “He comes in with the experience of playing in the ACC which will allow him to have an immediate impact in the conference. He’s an exceptional athlete that can score in a number of ways. He’s as talented a perimeter player as I’ve coached in college.”

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