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USC basketball: Cal State Fullerton pregame

November 24, 2010 |  6:51 pm

Greetings and salutations!

Coming to you from the Galen Center, where tonight the Trojans of USC (3-2) and the Titans of Cal State Fullerton (1-3) will play some Thanksgiving Eve basketball on Jim Sterkel Court. 

And, since we're discussing two historical-type mascots -- the Trojans and Titans -- as well as Thanksgiving, come with me on a short detour as I declare thankfulness for a former history professor of mine named Dr. J. Rufus Fears.   

The finest professor I've been fortunate to have studied under, Dr. Fears, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, my alma mater, teaches Roman and Greek history and considers historical events as universal and eternal lessons on how to make future decisions, no matter the situation.  

He's pretty good at this, too. Dr. Fears, a Harvard Ph.D who previously taught at Indiana University and Boston University, gives riveting lectures that earn him standing ovations at the end of every semester.

Here's a montage of his lectures. If you like more, YouTube has plenty to offer, including this dandy on Winston Churchill

As Thanksgiving looms, I'm thankful for a lot, but especially for all the great teachers I've had, like him. 

But I digress...

To basketball we go. Here are some tidbits to get you ready before tipoff between USC and Cal State Fullerton tonight at 7:30 (radio broadcast on 710):

USC player to watch: freshman forward Garrett Jackson

Very quietly, Jackson has become a pleasant surprise for USC. The 6-foot-7 lanky freshman from Oregon is shooting 73% this year (11 for 15) and in his last two games has totaled 22 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. 

Part of what has held Jackson back from making a bigger impact earlier on is that he missed two weeks, about 10 practices, with a fractured nose that he suffered in practice.

Not only that, but coaches initially were trying to teach him to play two positions -- the small forward and the power forward spots. Now, he's just learning the small forward position, and he seems to be building up his confidence.

Jackson is a solid outside shooter (he's made one of two three-point shots this season) and has yet to take a bad shot, as his field-goal percentage testifies. His length on defense is also a bonus for USC.

I'm interested to see if his progression continues tonight.

Cal State Fullerton player to watch: junior forward Orane Chin 

The Titans return just one starter from a team that won 16 games and tied for third in the Big West Conference last season. Chin isn't that guy, but he is averaging 19.8 points in his first four games, and hasn't taken a ton of shots to get there. The most he has taken in one game: 16. 

Chin's field-goal percentage is 57% overall and 50% from three-point range. He's also shooting 87% from the free-throw line.

To top it off, he's averaging 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 1.8 rebounds, and a block per game -- a pretty complete player who should be interesting to watch.

Key to the game for USC: zone offense

As I wrote in today's editions of The Times, USC has come up with a new offensive scheme for zone defenses, and it's basically to have junior forward Nikola Vucevic play out near the top of the key rather than inside. There, the team runs the offense through him, and in two games it has looked pretty effective. 

However, USC Coach Kevin O'Neill was hesitant to call the new offense a bona-fide zone buster for the Trojans, and that's probably true. Still, it does give them options.

I'll be interested to see if it is used more tonight and how effective it is against the Titans.

Lastly, some other stuff: 

-Freshman guard Maurice Jones has played 199 out of a possible 200 minutes in USC's first five games. His roommate, freshman guard Bryce Jones, has played 157 in those games. 

-Bryce is tied for the Pacific 10 Conference lead with 10 steals. 

-Senior guard Donte Smith (hamstring) was limited at practice Tuesday, but should be fine to play tonight.  

-The vertically-challenged Titans' tallest players are 6-foot-7. There are two of them: Chin and junior forward Steve Jurich. This could prove to be a problem for Cal State Fullerton since USC has won the rebounding edge in four of its five games this season.

-Aside from being rather short, the Titans are also pretty young. With no two-years or more lettermen, their roster had a total of only nine seasons of Division I experience, and only four of those nine seasons of experience came at Fullerton. Yikes. 

-- Baxter Holmes