USC basketball: Rider pregame
Coming to you from the Galen Center, where tonight USC (2-0) faces the Rider Broncs (1-1).
I know what you're thinking: Where is Rider and what's a Bronc?
Together, they make sense, right, despite the fact that Broncs are nowhere near New Jersey? Rider and Broncs. Plus, Rider call its basketball arena the Broncs' Zoo. Twenty points for wittiness.
(Side note: I once covered a rodeo in Salt Lake City, and wrote about saddle bronc riding, which was more fun than you might imagine.)
What symmetry. The Richmond Spiders -- the only school in the country whose mascot is "spiders" -- could take a lesson, though that nickname came about because a newspaper reporter created it, so it's doubly cool, just like this kid.
But I digress...
Here are some facts and stats to get you ready before tipoff at 7:30 p.m. (radio broadcast on 1260):
USC player to watch: point guard Maurice Jones
Jones is USC's player to watch on every night for as long as he wears a Trojans uniform. He put up 29 in his second college game and looked really good doing it. He has uncanny floor vision, devastating ball-handling skills, cat-like quickness and he's fearless, even though he's 5 feet 7 (a tad shorter, really), so he'll drive into the paint at will.
But the reason I'm interested in watching Jones tonight is that he has played 40 minutes in each of his first two games. He told me he felt sore after each one, and since USC is in a eight-games-in-17-days grind, I wonder if this 18-year-old will hold up while being asked to run this team. We'll see tonight.
Rider player to watch: senior guard Justin Robinson
Robinson comes to Rider all the way from England, the same country that produced Monty Python, the funniest group of comedians to grace this fine planet of ours -- for proof, see here.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Robinson played with the Great Britain national team this past summer, which is kind of cool, and he averaged 13.3 points last season and is averaging 15 in two games so far this season.
He's also one of the experienced point guards in the nation with 93 career starts -- sixth best in Division I.
Key to the game for USC: Energy
USC is on a grind, as I said, and some of its young players haven't had much time on the bench.
Not only has Maurice Jones played all 80 minutes in the first two games, but freshman guard Bryce Jones (no relation) has played 67 minutes out of a possible 80, and junior forward Nikola Vucevic has played all but one minute in two games.
If the Trojans are able to run and play aggressively on both offense and defense -- as they have been conditioned to do this off-season -- then a win against Rider shouldn't be problem. But if they come out flat, they could get flattened.
Some other stuff:
-USC is trying for its first 3-0 start since the 2000-01 season, when it won eight straight to start the season.
-Trojans senior forward Alex Stepheson is playing with a full cast on his left hand, which he fractured in USC's season-opening win against UC Irvine.
-Tonight's game will be broadcast here.
-- Baxter Holmes