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USC basketball: Lehigh pregame

December 23, 2010 |  2:41 pm

Season's greetings and salutations! 

Coming to you from the Galen Center, where tonight USC (7-5) and Lehigh (6-5) are scheduled to play some basketball on Christmas Eve Eve.

Speaking of Christmas....

If you cook a turkey, make sure it's a tad more moist than this one.

If you must be a Charlie Brown, don't be the Charlie Browniest.

If you find some mistletoe, well, you know what to do. 

If you are leave town to see family, lock your doors before you go. There may be burglars afoot.

Buddytheelf_350 If you want a present, ask for anything except an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. You'll shoot your eye out, kid. 

If you're feeling down, remember to be thankful. You probably have a wonderful life.

If you're simply new to Christmas and you're not sure what all the hullabaloo about... 

If your schedule is booked, remember to make room for friends and family.

And if you ever need to ask someone out on a date, make breakfast, or you're just new to New York, Buddy the Elf has you covered. (He knows Santa Claus.)

But I digress...

Here are some facts and stats to get you ready before tipoff at 5:30 p.m. PST (radio broadcast on 710):

Points per game/opponents points per game
USC: 68.5 / 63.4
Lehigh: 74.0 / 70.4

Lehigh probable starters

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Class Hometown PPG RPG

G 3 C.J. McCollum 6-3 180 So. Canton, Ohio 22.5 7.7

G 11 Mackey McKnight 6-0 170 Fr. Houston, Texas 8.0 1.5

G 23 Michael Ojo 6-5 200 Sr. Santa Monica, Calif. 12.9 3.9

F 20 Holden Greiner 6-7 210 So. Traverse City, Mich. 4.8 2.8

F 42 Gabe Knutson 6-9 220 So. Urbandale, Iowa 12.5 6.2

USC probable starters

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Class Hometown PPG RPG

G 2 Jio Fontan 6-0 175 Jr. Paterson, N.J. 14.0 1.5

G10 Maurice Jones 5-7 155 Fr. Saginaw, Mich 11.6 3.7

G 43 Marcus Simmons 6-6 220 Sr. Alexandria, La. 5.8 3.4

F 1 Alex Stepheson 6-10 250 Sr.* Los Angeles 9.8 8.2

F 5 Nikola Vucevic 6-10 260 Jr. Bar, Montenegro 15.2 9.6

* utilized redshirt season

USC player to watch: junior forward Nikola Vucevic

He's coming off a season-low four points in USC's 65-64 upset at No. 19 Tennessee, a game that Vucevic entered averaging 16.2 points.

What's interesting though is that USC won that game mostly with its perimeter scoring, getting 15 points from Maurice Jones, 13 from Jio Fontan, 11 from Bryce Jones and six from Donte Smith.

That said, Vucevic is still a key part of this team and USC needs him to play well to win. He should do that against Lehigh, which has only one key player taller than 6-foot-7. 

Lehigh player to watch: sophomore guard C.J. McCollum

McCollum became the first player in the history of the Patriot League to win both player of the year and rookie of the year honors when he did it last season as a freshman, averaging 19.1 points. The 605 points he scored that season were the most in league history by a freshman.

But McCollum has bettered his scoring this season, highlighted by a career-high 42 points in the Mountain Hawks' five-point at Kent State on Nov. 26.  

He's a dynamic scorer, mostly from three-point range (42% last season, 36% now), but he's also a solid rebounder, averaging 7.7 per game this season.  

Key to the game: Energy

The obvious fear for USC is a letdown. It's coming off a difficult road trip, a close loss at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday and an upset of No. 19 Tennessee on Tuesday -- and this game comes quick after the team left Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday morning. 

What's worse, this game is followed by a six-day break before the Trojans open Pacific-10 Conference play at home against Washington.

So, USC could be caught looking forward to the holiday break. 

That said, Lehigh was on break for nine days for final exams before this game, so it could easily be rusty. 

But in all, Lehigh isn't a team to be taken lightly. The Mountain Hawks advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, where they fell as a No. 16-seed to top-seeded Kansas in a game that Lehigh played pretty close until the end, largely because of McCollum, who had 26 points. 


-- My favorite Christmas song: Run Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry. 

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf.