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USC basketball: Northern Arizona pregame

December 11, 2010 |  1:09 pm

Greetings and salutations!         

Coming to you from the Galen Center, where USC (5-4) and Northern Arizona (7-2) will face each other Saturday afternoon in a test to see which team can outscore the other.

At least, I'm pretty sure that's how this game is played. Let me consult basketball's founding rules. Oh wait, I can't, because I'm short the necessary $4.3 million. Womp womp... 

That aside, it's the holidays, the season for giving, etc., and USC is being especially festive, so states USC spokesman Dave Tuttle, who informed me that anyone who brings a new or used blanket to Saturday's game will receive two free tickets to the game as part of USC's support for "Project Dream," which benefits homeless shelters throughout L.A. 

As Tuttle says, blankets should be brought to the USC box office at the Galen Center. Tickets are only $10 and students are free with an ID.

But I digress...

Here are some facts and stats  to get you ready before tipoff at 1 p.m. (television broadcast on FS West, radio broadcast on 710):

 

Points per game/opponents' points per game

USC: 69.9/63.9
Northern Arizona: 78.6/63 

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks Probable Starters

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

G 10 Cameron Jones 6-4 190 Sr. Los Angeles 17.6 4.7

G 11 Gabe Rogers 6-2 175 So. Houston, Texas 12.8 2.2

G 21 Stallon Saldivar 6-0 185 So. Salt Lake City 4.6 3.6

F 34 Durrell Norman 6-4 190 Jr. Victorville 4.4 4.9

F 40 Shane Johannsen 6-7 235 Sr. Phoenix 10.3 6.0

USC Trojans Probable Starters

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

G 10 Maurice Jones 5-7 155 Fr. Saginaw, Mich 12.6 3.3

G 15 Bryce Jones 6-5 200 Fr. Los Angeles 12.0 3.1

G 43 Marcus Simmons 6-6 220 Sr. Alexandria, La. 6.9 4.1

F 1 Alex Stepheson 6-10 250 Sr.* Los Angeles 8.9 8.0

F 5 Nikola Vucevic 6-10 260 Jr. Bar, Montenegro 16.9 10.7

* utilized redshirt season

 USC player to watch: freshman guard Maurice Jones

Jones had a career-high six assists in USC's 73-56 win over No. 19 Texas on Sunday and helped USC control the game from start to finish. He has played 344 out of a possible 360 minutes this season and is still trying to balance being a scorer versus being a distributor.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill wants him to simply be a playmaker, but when Jones gets his teammates involved, the Trojans often win. In games when he has five or more assists, USC is 3-1.   

Northern Arizona player to watch: senior guard Cameron Jones

Jones withdrew his name from the NBA draft in May, averting joining his cousin, former Stanford star Landry Fields, who did stay in the draft and is one of the surprise rookies in the NBA, averaging 10.3 points for the New York Knicks.  

Jones' decision to stay looks good, though. He's averaging 17.6 points this season and is coming off a season-high 27 points in NAU's win over Texas-Pan American on Wednesday.

He's expected to play in front of many family members and friends in Saturday's game, so expect Jones to use this homecoming game of sorts as a breakout game.  

Key to the game: Defense

As I wrote in Saturday's edition of The Times, USC's defense is starting to show glimpses of the dominance it displayed last season, the Texas win being the key example.

But today is sort of a mindfield game for USC because it falls between a big win and two key road games against ranked opponents, Kansas (8-0) and Tennessee (6-0), and because it's coming against a team people might not respect, but Northern Arizona is on a seven-game winning streak. The Lumberjacks also return four starters and nine lettermen from a team that finished 14-14 last season and fifth in the Big Sky Conference.

And speaking of the Big Sky Conference, didn't UCLA recently lose to a team from that league? I think so... 

Lastly...

-- USC has alternated two wins and two losses all season. The Trojans are coming off the Texas win, and are 4-1 at home this season, so expect a win Saturday. 

-- Baxter Holmes 

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