The 16th ranked USC Trojans will put its perfect record on the line Sunday afternoon when nearby Long Beach State visits the Galen Center.
This afternoon's game, and next Wednesday's game vs. UC Irvine will serve as final tune ups before the schedule takes a gigantic leap forward in terms of competitiveness. Following UC Irvine, USC will face power conference foes Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, and then immediately jump into the Pac-12 fire with a home series with the Arizona schools. While there is obvious excitement about the upcoming games, we never look too far ahead, and will evaluate each game in a vacuum.
Long Beach Team Preview
The Beach, as they are now known, will enter Sunday's matchup with a less than impressive 3-6 record. LBSU has been largely inconsistent through their non-conference schedule, especially on the offensive end. As a team, LBSU is averaging 74 points per game, but have already had several performance in which they only scored in the mid-40s (one of which against defensive juggernaut and fellow USC opponent, San Diego State). For the most part, LBSU has beat up on some very weak teams, and has been blown out by quality opponents (UCLA and SDSU).
LBSU is led by a trio of upper classmen, Joel Murray, Colin Slater and Joe Hampton. Murray leads the group in scoring, checking in at over 16 points per game. The 6 foot guard came to LBSU after building an impressive resume at West Texas A&M, where he averaged over 23 points per game in his Junior season, and 20 as a sophomore. Murray is a dynamic scorer who typically operates from 12-15 feet. He is a good athlete and is extremely creative with the ball, and is capable of creating his own shot in an instant.
Slater is in his third season at Long Beach State, after starting his collegiate career at Tulane. Slater is the de-facto deep threat for The Beach, and has the ability to shift momentum with a smooth jump shot. In their last game against Bethesda, Slater nailed 5 of 7 threes en route to a 21 point performance. On the season Slater is averaging 12.6 points per game, and will need to play a critical role if LBSU wants to give the Trojans a run for their money.
On the interior, 6’8” Joe Hampton will be tasked with slowing down the Trojan bigs. Hampton is a big bodied Senior, who is plays bigger than his height would indicate. He uses his 250 pound frame to establish position and impose his will. Hampton averages about 12 points per game and only 3.6 rebounds. But he is largely responsible for occupying opposing big men, while the LBSU guards clean up the glass. Hampton will have a tough assignment in keeping up with Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin, but if he can stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to make life a little more difficult for the Trojan front court.
On paper, this one should be fairly straight forward, USC should be able to run away from LBSU relatively quickly. Where this game should provide good insight is in how the Trojans respond to a disappointing finish to Tuesday’s game against EKU. We had documented the shortcomings of Boogie Ellis in the last game, and it will be fascinating to see how the USC Guard come out tonight. I suspect that Andy will not let Ellis’ Tuesday night dud linger very long, and call plays to get Boogie clean looks. One of Boogie’s most dangerous weapons is his confidence, and USC will need his swagger fully intact as the team enters a tough stretch.
Aside from Washington State, USC has not really been in a close game. As a result of the frequent large leads this team has played with, we have seen extended periods of lazy, uninspired basketball, where opponents have made mini runs to cut into Trojan leads. USC has yet to play its best 40 minute game, and with the typical rotation coming into focus, it will be entertaining to see if/when this team puts together 40 minutes of intense defense and efficient offense.
I will be a few minutes late on the live tweeting front, as I am currently 30,000 feet in the air heading to the East Coast. USC should win this game easily without much stress. I like the Trojans by 30, with Boogie Ellis making a statement with a huge comeback game.