The USC Trojans defeated 7th ranked Stanford 77-64 earlier this afternoon and will enter the Pac-10 Tournament on fire after sweeping the bay area schools this weekend. The men closed out the regular season in style with a record of (20-10) overall and (11-7) in the Pac-10, finishing tied for 3rd in the conference with Washington State. USC played out of its mind on Saturday, and reaped the rewards of the incredible effort that they put into this game on both ends of the floor. O.J. Mayo led the Trojans in scoring yet again with 25 points, but it was a total team effort tonight. The Trojans out-rebounded the Cardinal 47-31, despite the presence of Stanford's 7-foot Lopez twins, thanks to the play of forwards Taj Gibson (20 pts, 11 rebs) and Keith Wilkinson (4 pts, 8 rebs) and some help from the guards (Mayo had 8 rebs). USC's defense was able to contain the twins for most of the game by using a lot of full-court pressure, speeding up the tempo of the game and taking them out of their comfort level. Offensively, Mayo continued his hot play and put on a show in front of a CBS national tv audience. Those who tuned in were not disappointed, as seen by plays like this...
[video courtesy of USChoops.com Message Board]
Lost in Mayo's current hot streak is the re-emergence of Taj Gibson, who got off to a slower than expected start this season. He's been our steadiest player since the Trojans got off to that dismal (0-3) start in Pac-10 play. USC is (11-4) since then, which is incredible when you consider the absence of starting point guard Daniel Hackett, but that would not have been possible without Gibson. He had that key blocked shot in the closing minutes of USC's win at ucla, and carried the team on his back when we hosted the bruins at the Galen Center. Gibson has been scoring at will, staying out of foul trouble, controlling the boards, blocking shots, and playing with emotion out there. USC seems to be peaking at just the right time. Coach Tim Floyd has found two very reliable players off the bench in Wilkinson and point guard Angelo Johnson, who has started some games and played some valuable minutes for Hackett both at the beginning of the season and during his recent back injury. With the regular season in the books, Coach Floyd can now start gearing his squad for the "Big Dance." Let's take a quick peak at next week's Pac-10 Tournament, hosted by the Staples Center, which gets underway Wednesday evening.
The Trojans have earned the #4 seed in the Pac-10 Tourney, having lost the tie-breaker since they were swept by Washington State, and will play 5th-seeded Arizona State in a quarterfinal match-up on Thursday at approximately 6pm (PST). USC is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but it can go a long way towards improving its seeding with an impressive showing at Staples. USC's two most recent losses came against the teams that they will likely face in the next two games. The prospects of facing Arizona State (quarterfinal opponent) and ucla (potential semifinal opponent) on consecutive nights makes for a very intriguing tournament. I expect every die hard Trojan, living in the L.A. area to come out and support our team. We made it to the final last year, let's go out and finish it this time. Below is the bracket (click on image to enlarge), courtesy of USChoops.com:Great season guys, but there's still work to do.
Fight On! Beat the Devils!