The Utes are back on the road, where they are winless in Pac-12 play. It should be interesting to see how the Utes respond to the beast that is the road, and how they do it against a talented team like USC. The Utes are coming off of a home sweep against the Washington schools, where they seemed to get their legs under them again, especially in that Wazzu game. The Washington game may have been a bit of an aberration, because Utah probably should have lost that game, and they did lose the stat sheet in many ways. Against WSU the ball was moving again, there were some smart shots being taken, and they held onto the ball. Rylan Jones really got rolling again in that game, as he dominated the second half to help the Utes get the win.
USC, roster wise, will be similar to other teams that Utah has struggled against in Pac-12 play. They’re going to be long and athletic. It’s going to be important that Utah keeps USC in the half court, and do not have live ball turnovers and allow them to get into the open court. USC isn’t he best shooting team in the league, at just 44%, but they go to the offensive glass hard, 2nd in the Pac-12, and they rebound the heck out of the ball overall, as the league leader in that category. The glass will be a big deal for the Utes today, since USC isn’t the most efficient at scoring the ball.
If Utah stays patient, and attached to USC, the Trojans haven’t always been the most disciplined team and will give up easy baskets. Utah just needs to keep the ball moving on offense, keep ‘SC off the offensive glass, and hit open shots, and they’ll be in a position to win this game.
Here’s the official scouting report of USC from the press release at UtahUtes.com:
SCOUTING THE TROJANS
The USC Trojans enter the week 16-4 overall and 5-2 in Pac-12 play after splitting the weekend at the Oregon schools. USC nearly swept the weekend, but fell in double-overtime at Oregon 79-70. Thursday’s contest will be the 13th time the Trojans and Utes have squared off in Pac-12 play with Utah leading the head-to-head series 8-4 in just regular-season conference games.
Freshman Onyeka Okongwu leads all USC players, averaging 17.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. The 6-9 forward has claimed a player of the week honor and a pair of freshman of the week accolades so far this season. He’s also shooting a deadly .623 clip through 19 games for the Trojans and .725 from the stripe. Senior Jonah Mathews is second on the squad, averaging 13.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists with a team-high 45 triples. Senior Nick Rakocevic rounds out the double-digit scoring for USC, checking in at 11.0 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.
However, in conference play, only Okongwu (16.6ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Mathews (14.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg) are the only ones averaging in double-figures for USC. Like most teams, the Trojans have performed much better when playing at home and have outscored opponents by an average of 12.9 points per game. They have also outrebounded opponents on average by 7.6 boards when playing inside the Galen Center.
USC had a hot start to the season, reeling off five-straight wins before falling to Temple for its lone loss at home. The Trojans then went on another run, this time a six-game streak that included a road win at TCU and neutral victory against LSU before starting Pac-12 play.
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