It has been 16 days since the Stanford Cardinal defeated USC 75-69 and handed USC its first loss of the 2021-2022 season. Tonight, the Trojans will have an opportunity to exact revenge as Stanford visits the Galen Center. We know what to expect from Stanford, we know the brand of basketball Jerod Haase’s team’s bring, and we know that the trio of Spencer Jones, Jaiden Delaire and Freshman Harrison Ingram will be formidable matchups for the Trojans. What we do not know is how USC will perform in the rematch.
Keys to Tonight's Game
While the Trojans have suffered two defeats this year, the Stanford loss hit harder for me. Aside from ending the undefeated season, this is a team that USC should handle without much drama, but Stanford found success offensively, that has turned into a blueprint of sorts for Trojan opponents since the 11th. Season long statistics place the Trojan defense as one of the best in the country, but the perimeter defense has struggled, especially against the three pointer in the last two/three weeks. Here are the three point numbers in since the Stanford game.
Stanford – 10-24
Oregon State – 9-17
Oregon – 10-21
Utah – 9-23
ASU – 8-30
Cumulatively the Trojans have allowed 53 threes over the past 6 games (nearly 9 per game) at a 40% clip. The Trojans have a size advantage on the wings, but the Trojans have had a knack for getting lost in the zone defense, and erring on switches too often in the past few weeks. Stanford features a versatile lineup that features shooters from all positions, USC needs to be more active and contest each and every attempt. I would expect that Peterson, Agbonkpolo, Reese Dixon-Waters and Kobe Johnson will all see valuable minutes due to their size (Drew and Max) and tenacious defense (Dixon-Waters and Johnson).
Stanford is also one of the bigger teams that the Trojans will play all year, it was this size that essentially shut down the Trojans on the offensive boards. In the first matchup, USC only snagged 4 offensive rebounds (and just 1 from Chevez Goodwin). USC needs to be more aggressive on the offensive boards. Agbonkpolo started the first game, and I think he will most likely get the nod again tonight, and he should be a prime candidate to steal a few extra possessions. Goodwin has been relentless on the offensive glass, and I doubt Stanford will be able to hold him down for another matchup.
Free Throw Shooting
In a six-point loss, missing 11 Free Throws is simply inexcusable. USC needs to be able to convert in crunch time, especially the front end of 1 and 1s. Dixon-Waters has been the most consistent FT shooter on the team, and the ball should go to Reese and Boogie Ellis if fouls are to be expected. Mobley and Peterson have gotten better, but Goodwin and Ethan Anderson cannot yet be trusted at the line.
Overall, I think USC regained some confidence in the mountains, and captured some of its early season swagger in the ASU comeback turned blowout. This team appears to have found a rhythm, and good defense will continue to keep this team in any game it enters. Offensive consistency and ball movement need to improve, but things are trending in the right direction.
The Trojans are 11 point favorites over Stanford, which seems like a lot, but if the Trojans can come out and pick up where they left off with ASU, this has potential to be a statement win for this team. I like the 11 point spread, and think USC ends up in that general area. The Cardinal are coming off a controversial win against ASU, in which they attempted 41 (yes 41!) FTs. USC will not be as clumsy on the defensive end, and I think Trojan toughness prevails tonight.
USC wins this one by 12+ with big games from Mobley and Goodwin!