Jan. 11, the Trojans (10-4, 1-1) host No. 7 UCLA (12-2, 2-0) at the Galen Center. Both teams are jockeying for position in the PAC-10, though a Trojan victory may help the school rekindle some of its gloried past on the hardwood.
The Bruins come into Galen Center with an eight-game winning streak, but the Trojans are 8-0 at home. Something has to give.
Both teams are solid at the guard spot. UCLA is led by Darren Collison (15 points and five assists per game), top blue chip recruit Jrue Holiday (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) and swingman Josh Shipp. USC can respond with Dwight Lewis (16 points per game) and Daniel Hackett (11 points, four rebounds and six assists per game).
Where USC can exploit UCLA is in the middle, with its one-two punch of Taj Gibson (15 points, 10 rebounds per game) and blue chip recruit DeMar DeRozan (12 points, five rebounds per game).
Starter Alfred Aboya can probably keep up with DeRozan, but UCLA needs its own blue chip recruits in Drew Gordon and J’mison Morgan to be a factor off the bench. If not, Gibson may have his way inside and counter UCLA’s perimeter game.
The difference will come down to defense and performance under pressure. USC defeats its opponents by an average of 11 points, but is 2-3 in games decided by less than five points.
Conversely, the Bruins are a defensive juggernaut, defeating opponents by nearly 19 points per game. Ten of UCLA’s 12 victories have been by 10 points or more.
The game will be a nail biter, coming down to the final three minutes – which gives an edge to UCLA. Bruins will win by eight.
All stats as of Jan. 5.