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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    USC and UA eerily similar

    Opponent Analysis

    When USC invades Tucson tonight, in many ways the Wildcats will be looking at a mirror image of themselves.

    Both teams feature an elite freshman combo guard expected to leave early, a quality sophomore big man who must stay out of foul trouble, an injured sophomore guard who has left a big hole on a depth-starved roster, an athletic freshman four man and a head coach who has spent time in the NBA.

    That’s not to mention both squads have narrowly missed out on upset chances against No. 2 Memphis and No. 4 Kansas. Both are also expected to reach the NCAA Tournament barring a collapse and would have a shot at third place in the Pacific 10 Conference with a win tonight.

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said he sees three NBA prospects in the Trojans’ starting lineup, with the same thing being true of his team, but the focus at USC is freshman phenom guard O.J. Mayo, the reigning Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Week, after he scored 53 points in a home sweep of the Oregon schools.

    For the season, Mayo ranks third in the Pac-10 in scoring at 20.1 points per game, just behind UA guard Jerryd Bayless, who’s second at 21.1 ppg.

    Bayless called Mayo “”one of the better players in America,”” while UA guard Jawann McClellan added he’s a triple-threat with his abilities to dribble, pass and shoot.

    “”He’s a pro,”” McClellan said. “”You can’t stop someone like that, but you can make it hard for them. That’s not an easy task for me or Jerryd to guard him. He’s a great player. He can shoot from NBA range and he can take it all the way to the rim, and he has a midrange game.””

    Mayo scored a team-high 23 points in Arizona’s 80-69 win over the Trojans Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, but the Trojans were hurt by the loss of glue-guy guard Daniel Hackett 1:45 into the game.

    That forced guard Angelo Johnson to play 37 minutes and Mayo 39 without any other reliable guards. Five Trojans ended up playing the type of minutes the Wildcats are accustomed to, with four playing at least 37 and five going for at least 32, while Arizona also did not have one of its five key players see less than 33 minutes.

    USC head coach Tim Floyd said Hackett, who has missed the last three games due to a stress fracture in his lower back originally suffered against the Wildcats, could return to action based on how he responds to yesterday’s practice.

    O’Neill said missing Hackett “”naturally”” hurts the Trojans, just like losing injured guard Nic Wise affects Arizona.

    “”Anytime you lose a starter and you’re thin, which we both are, it impacts your team in a great way,”” Floyd said.

    Arizona’s glue guy McClellan knows what kind of difference Hackett could make, saying the Wildcats hope he won’t be able to go.

    “”Defensively, emotionally, he’s a tough kid,”” McClellan said. “”He’s a good kid, and if he can go, he’ll go I’m pretty sure, because he’s tough.””

    Nobody would blame McClellan for licking his chops to go against USC because he scored a career-high 23 points in the first meeting.

    The Wildcats inverted the Trojans’ triangle-and-two defense aimed at slowing Bayless and UA forward Chase Budinger, putting McClellan and Wise at the top behind the 3-point line, which often left them open for perimeter jumpers.

    “”He had a great game, and we probably didn’t treat him with enough respect,”” Floyd said of McClellan. “”I’m sure that we’ll have a bigger emphasis on him, but at the same time you’ve got to help from somewhere to Bayless and Budinger. These guys have done a very good job for a couple young guys. For a freshman and sophomore, they’re special players.

    “”But McClellan has been their steady defender, and when he’s open he can make a shot. We left him open too much in the last game.””

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