GAME NOTES: The USC Trojans will try to get back in the win column yet again when they host the Oregon State Beavers in a Pac-12 Conference tilt at the Galen Center.
Andy Enfield's first season as head coach for USC has not gone well. The Trojans are just 10-17 overall, with a single win in 14 tries in conference play. They are currently sliding along on an eight-game losing streak, following a 77-64 setback against California on Sunday. They play their home finale on Saturday against Oregon.
Oregon State has been better than USC, but has still had its share of difficulties this season. The Beavers have dropped four of their last five bouts, including an 86-62 decision to Washington last Saturday, to fall to 14-12 overall and 6-8 in conference. They have their final road game of the season next at UCLA.
Pe'Shon Howard missed a potential game-tying free-throw in the final seconds of overtime as USC lost a heartbreaker, 76-75, to the Beavers when these teams hooked up on Jan. 30. Oregon State has won five of the last seven meetings, but the Trojans still lead the all-time series, 67-61.
Roberto Nelson dropped in 17 points for Oregon State, but it was not nearly enough to keep Oregon State competitive against Washington. Six different players scored in double figures for the Huskies, who drained 57.4 percent of their total shots. Meanwhile, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier each scored 10 points as the only other double-digit scorers for the losing side.
If there is one thing Oregon State has been able to count on this season it is that Nelson will find a way to reach double figures. The 6-foot-4 guard (20.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) is the leading scorer in the conference, and has tallied at least 10 points in all but one game this season. Collier (13.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Brandt (12.6 ppg) have been solid contributors as well for the Beavers, with each sinking better than 50 percent of their shots from the floor. As a collective unit, OSU is netting a solid 75.7 ppg thanks to the third-best field goal percentage in the Pac-12 (.482).
USC stumbled in the second half of its recent clash with California, as the Trojans let a 30-27 halftime lead slip away when they allowed the Golden Bears to shoot 60 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Howard scored 17 points and J.T. Terrell and Nikola Jovanovic each netted 14 for the Trojans in defeat.
Absent from that game, and the one prior, was leading scorer Byron Wesley (17.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg), who will make his return on Thursday following a two-game suspension. Although Wesley is one of the 10-best scorers in the Pac-12, even with him the Trojans have been far from a strong offensive team. They are next-to-last in the conference in both scoring (71.1 ppg) and field goal percentage (.443), while registering only 13.1 apg. Howard (10.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) is the next-best scorer after Wesley. He transformed into the primary scoring threat in Wesley's absence, following a 13-point performance against Stanford with his effort against Cal.
Having Wesley back in the fold will help the Trojans, but not enough for them to get past the Beavers, who simply have more depth.
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