#22 USC Trojans (13-0)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 2nd Overall
- Head Coach: Andy Enfield (4th Season)
- Top Performer: Elijah Stewart (15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
- Points For: 83.2 PPG (35th)
- Points Against: 70.2 PPG (146th)
- Last Game/Streak: 94-92 Win v. Wyoming (13W)
Coming off last week’s 69-50 win over Kent State, a tough team from Mid Atlantic Conference who then knocked off Texas on Tuesday night, Oregon State somehow heads into the first game on their Pac-12 slate with a bit of momentum and confidence.
And they’ll need it.
Following a brutal non-conference portion to their schedule, where Oregon State suffered defeats to the likes of Lamar and Savannah State, head coach Wayne Tinkle and company now enter their league schedule at a 4-9 clip, with an unbeaten and well-tested Trojans team heading to Corvallis. To say the task ahead is monumental would be a severe and vast understatement but remember now, this is a USC program that hasn’t won in their last seven trips to Gill Coliseum. That’s good news for an Oregon State group that could use any type of home-court advantage at the moment.
The fact of the matter is that the Beavers likely will be taking the start of the Pac-12 portion of their schedule as a breath of fresh air for a banged up and emotionally wrought team, that’s already dealt with a myriad of close calls, unfortunate injuries and endless line-up changes, as they near mid-point of the regular season. What a statement could be made on Wednesday night, if Oregon State could somehow find it’s way to send the Trojans back to California with their first loss of the 2016-2017 season.
If the Beavers are to slow down a red-hot USC team, it comes with first containing the bevy of Trojans’ star players, starting with a potential all conference player in point guard Jordan McLaughlin (14.7 PPG). McLaughlin is one of the Trojans four currently healthy players that average double-digit points on the season, along with 6’ 5” Elijah Stewart (15.5 PPG), towering forward Chimezie Metu (13.1 PPG) and swingman Shaqquan Aaron (10.6 PPG). The Beavers will also need to keep an eye on freshman guard De’Anthony Melton (9.8 PPG) and Minnesota transfer forward Charles Buggs, who despite dealing with a knee injury, could emerge as a steady front court presence down the road for a likely NCAA Tournament-bound Trojans group.
With USC may still have a void to be filled with forward Bennie Boatwright (10.8 PPG) out with a sprained knee, the cupboard is not exactly bare for head coach Andy Enfield at the moment. The Trojans have proven all season long with wins over the likes of Texas A&M, SMU, BYU and Wyoming, that they are a legitimate contender, along with cross-town rival UCLA, for a Pac-12 title this season. What a win it could be for Oregon State to spoil USC’s debut conference game and pick up their first two-game win streak since they began the campaign with victories over Prairie View A&M and UT-San Antonio.
Keys To The Game
⇛ Divide The Trojans Comfortable Balance
Even with the emergence of fellow guard Elijah Stewart as the team’s leading scorer this season, everything USC does on the court starts and ends with playmaking point guard Jordan McLaughlin, arguably the team’s best overall talent. And while McLaughlin is always the enigma for this Trojans roster, the key to slowing down USC is to have the rising junior revert back to his old ways, before he became the floor-general leader who commands this Trojans group with ease. If Oregon State can take away some of the other reliable scorers for USC and make McLaughlin try to win the game by himself, we could see the first time all season long when USC looks a bit divided.
⇛ Oregon State (Still) Needs To Find An Identity
It could be the third or fourth time in a row that Oregon State’s identity is one of the biggest keys to the game but it’ll likely remain there until this Beavers group decides who exactly they are going to be on the floor. Oregon State made some strides on the defensive end against Portland and Kent State, holding their opponents to 53 and 50 points respectively, but with the tempo of the game severely decreasing, the Beavers now will need to discover a strong offensive approach to deal with the dwindling possessions. USC plays at an opportunistic pace where they let their players attack if the opportunities present themselves. Look for the Beavers to try and take the wind out of this game’s sails and make the Trojans compete at a more methodical speed.
Player To Watch
Guard - De’Anthony Melton (Freshman)
While the known names of Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart and Shaqquan Aaron, are all the figure-heads of a free flowing Trojans backcourt, one emerging piece on this USC roster is freshman guard De’Anthony Melton, a North Hollywood, California product who is beginning to break out of his shell just thirteen games into his rookie campaign. While touches and visibility may be hard to find behind some of the aforementioned talents, Melton makes his impact felt on the court just about every night and in an increased amount of minutes in USC’s last two games against Missouri State and Wyoming, the budding freshman had two of the best outings of his career. Melton has tallied 28 points over the last two contests on 10-18 shooting from the field, while also grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists in the process. Still at times a headache for Enfield with his knack for turning the ball over and going through those infamous freshman growing pains, keep an eye on a playmaker like Melton to make his presence felt in one way or another on Wednesday night.