Hoops heads to Westwood for rivalry game

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first_imgThe men’s basketball team is off to its best start since the 2008-09 season. The Trojans have already surpassed their win total from last year, and matched their total Pac-12 wins. Head coach Andy Enfield seems to finally have his Trojan squad on the right path after defeating No. 7 Arizona in quadruple overtime Saturday night.Next up for the Trojans is crosstown rival, UCLA. The Bruins have won six straight against the Trojans, including three blow-outs last season. UCLA has had quite an up and down season thus far, winning games against Gonzaga, Kentucky and Arizona, but losing to the likes of Monmouth and Washington State.The Trojans and Bruins will enter the game with momentum after both programs swept the Arizona schools over the weekend. Unfortunately for the Trojans, UCLA has dominated them during the Enfield Era. In five games against UCLA, Enfield’s Trojans have been outscored by a total of 98 points, while never losing within single digits.Last season the trio of guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, and forward Tony Parker gave the Trojans fits. Alford scored 21 points with five 3-pointers in an 83-66 victory last January. Parker followed up with 22 points of his own in an 85-74 victory last March and Hamilton dropped 36 points on the Trojans en route to a 96-70 victory in the Pac-12 tournament. Alford, Parker and Hamilton are the three top scorers for the Bruins this season.While USC has been a sub par program over the past few seasons, the Trojans deserve respect from UCLA this year. The Trojans are another year older after being the youngest team in the Pac-12 last season, and it shows. The Trojans currently have five players averaging double digits in scoring. Junior leaders Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic are having breakout years, and sophomore sensations Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart are becoming more comfortable in Enfield’s system.The biggest difference for the Trojans this year has been their three-point shooting. The addition of freshman sniper Bennie Boatwright has helped space the floor for the Trojans. USC is attempting 21 threes per game and is converting 40.9 percent of them, good for 12th in the nation and best in the Pac-12.The Trojans are also sharing the ball at a higher rate than in previous years. Jacobs and McLaughlin are currently first and third in the Pac-12 with 5.8 and 5.2 assists per game, respectively. That ball movement has helped the Trojans improve their field goal percentage from 42.2 percent a year ago to 46.8 percent this season.While USC versus UCLA is always about bragging rights in LA, much more is on the line this time around. The AP released its top 25 Monday and the Trojans were the first team out at No. 26, with UCLA following closely behind at No.28. A triumph over UCLA will give the Trojans another quality win for their resume, and could help vault USC into the AP Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 17, 2008.Tip off is set for 8 Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion. The game will be aired on ESPN 2.last_img

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