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USC Trojans Game Preview & How to Watch

Can the Huskies rebound after a subpar effort against UCLA on Thursday night?

Long Beach State v USC Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 1/5/19

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 pm PT


Radio: KOMO 1000


Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting line: Washington -3.5

USC 2019-20 Statistics:

Record: 12-2

Points For per Game: 74.9 ppg (81st)

Points Against per Game: 67.5 ppg (129th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.1 (75th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.4 (60th)

Strength of Schedule: 156th overall

USC Key Players:

C- Onyeka Okongwu, Fr. 6’9, 245: 18.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.2 bpg, 64.6% FG, 71.0% FT

Isaiah Stewart has been a monster for Washington but Okongwu has been just as good on offense and an even better shot blocker. Their rate stats are almost identical it’s just that Stewart is playing an extra 4 minutes per game. Neither player has gone up against as big man as good as each other this season and whoever wins the matchup has a massive edge.

F- Nick Rakocevic, Sr. 6’11, 225: 11.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 50.0% FG, 63.6% 3pt, 58.6% FT

It’s been an adjustment for Rakocevic as in his senior year Okongwu has come in and become the low post star of the team. After going 0/4 on 3-pointers in his first 3 seasons he has somehow shot 7/11 in the early going this year. He’s also taken a few mid-range jumpers but not enough to think he’s going to toast the UW zone from the high zone. What he can do however is rebound and expect him to end up with 5+ offensive boards with the way Washington is playing right now.

G- Elijah Weaver, So. 6’6, 210: 6.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 38.6% FG, 38.2% 3pt, 62.1% FT

Weaver had an up and down freshman season where he was asked to play out of position at the point at times. This year he’s playing more off the ball as the 3rd guard in the starting lineup. Weaver’s a career 36.5% 3pt shooter and that’s where he’s most likely to hurt UW considering he’s pretty abysmal trying to finish around the rim.

G- Jonah Mathews, Sr. 6’3, 205: 12.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 37.1% FG, 36.9% 3pt, 71.8% FT

Mathews his having his least efficient offensive season in his final year of eligibility but he’s the leader of this team and their second leading scorer. He’s attempted almost double the number of 3’s as the next highest on the roster so he should be the main priority on the scouting report as a shooter on the perimeter.

G- Ethan Anderson, Fr. 6’1, 210: 5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.4 apg, 33.3% FG, 31.3% 3pt, 73.1% FT

Anderson has come in as a true freshman and done a good job distributing the ball as he’s 15th in the country in assist rate. Unfortunately for him and USC his turnover numbers are also through the roof and he has been an abysmal scorer. Anderson has committed multiple turnovers in 9 of USC’s past 10 games and turned it over at least 4 times in half of them. Expect at least that many against Washington’s zone tonight.

2019-20 USC Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

USC has been scorching hot firing from deep on the left side of the court but not from the right. You can be sure that’s making it into the scouting report and they’ll shade Quade Green to the other side where they have not been nearly as good. Overall USC has been good in the paint but there’s a massive split. The 3 primary big men of Mobley/Okongwu/Rakocevic are shooting 62.5% in the paint and the 3 primary guards are shooting 43%. If USC is driving to the hoop then Isaiah Stewart needs to stay glued to USC’s big men and let them try to finish around the rim rather than leaping completely out of position to make the block and give up an easy dish for a dunk.

The Outlook

It’s completely accurate to say that the Huskies are coming off their worst game of the season in just about every respect. The offense was completely non-functional outside of Isaiah Stewart and the defense kept losing track of the only guy for UCLA who could shoot while giving up every offensive rebound. If we see that version of Washington then this one is over before it starts given the relative talent discrepancy from UCLA to USC.

But if we assume that then there’s no point in even writing a preview. What happens if Washington learns from their mistakes and plays closer to their talent level? The main attraction for any neutral observer watching this contest is the interior battle between Isaiah Stewart and Onyeka Okongwu. Along with Duke’s Vernon Carey they’ve been the 3 best freshman big men in college basketball and it will be fascinating to see if either can create an advantage by getting the other into foul trouble. Both teams are in the top-20 in defensive field goal percentage on 2-point shots and it’s evident from watching both of these freshmen play as to why.

If Stewart and Okongwu play to a draw then which supporting cast has the edge? USC plays almost exclusively with a pair of bigs on the floor with some combination of Okongwu, Rakocevic, and 6’10 freshman Isaiah Mobley. All 3 have an offensive rebounding rate that would be double everyone on Washington except for Stewart. Expect to see more of the same in terms of Husky opponents winding up with 10+ offensive rebounding and a significant edge in second chance points.

All 3 starting USC guards are capable shooters but there’s no one who is absolutely lighting it up. Their playing styles may be different but all of their shooting stat lines look like senior year Dominic Green from both inside and beyond the arc. The lack of ability to hit from the midrange or at the rim means USC relies heavily on ball movement rather than isolation to score. Washington’s zone is better against teams used to taking their man off the dribble 1v1 and if they’re patient and move the ball like normal then they can find holes.

It’s clear that USC holds the rebounding edge but Washington has played a lot of games where both teams have 15+ turnovers. That could well be the case again as USC is prone to getting the ball stolen and while they can force turnovers it’s usually due to their opponent throwing the ball out of bounds rather than getting a steal. They’re 297th/298th in steal percentage on both sides of the ball so the Huskies will need to play a little smarter and hold a significant edge in fast break points in order to prevail.

The Trojans don’t have a win on their resume as good as Washington’s versus Baylor but they have four that are better than UW’s next best and are lacking one as bad as UCLA on Thursday night. Washington definitely has the talent to win this game at home. They’ll need Jaden McDaniels to break out of his funk (both attitude and basketball) and show some pride after a lackluster effort last time out. It’s difficult after seeing UW in person play that game versus UCLA though and predict them to come out and beat an even better team with someone capable of going toe to toe with Isaiah Stewart.


Washington Huskies- 68, USC Trojans-72


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