After reclaiming a spot in the Top 25 following a week-long absence, Southern California looks for its first season series sweep of Washington in five years when the Pac-10 foes meet on Thursday.
The 23rd-ranked Trojans (21-8, 11-5) fell out of the AP poll last week after a Feb. 18 loss to Arizona State, which had been winless in Pac-10 play. It was the second loss in three games for USC, but the team rebounded to beat Stanford and California in its last two games.
“We’re on a big high right now, feeling good, feeling confident,” said Nick Young, who leads the Trojans with 17.2 points per game. “It’s been a roller coaster.”
Young scored a game-high 25 points in the first meeting this season with the Huskies (16-12, 6-10), helping USC to an 86-79 win in double overtime on Dec. 28. That victory over then-No. 14 Washington snapped a five-game losing streak in the series for the Trojans, who haven’t swept both meetings since 2001-02.
In Saturday’s 84-66 victory over Cal, the Trojans shot 52.6 percent from the field and made a season-high 10 3-pointers in 22 attempts.
Taj Gibson had a team-high 18 points, five assists and six rebounds. He averaged 4.5 points over the previous four games, shooting 7-of-27 from the field.
Lodrick Stewart became the school’s all-time leader with 218 3-pointers as he went 4-of-7 from behind the arc Saturday.
“It feels real good,” said Stewart, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “Hopefully it will stay up there for at least five years.”
Stewart has averaged 18.5 points in the last four games while shooting 10-for-20 from 3-point range.
Last week’s two wins likely locked up an NCAA tournament berth for the Trojans, but coach Tim Floyd won’t let his team lose focus during this week’s trip to Washington. USC closes the regular season on Saturday against Washington State, which is one game ahead of the Trojans for second place in the Pac-10.
“Until they tell you you’re in, you can’t assume it,” Floyd said.
A win on Thursday would mark just the eighth time USC has won more than 21 games in a season. The last time that happened was in 2001-02 when the Trojans finished 22-10.
It appears the Huskies won’t be joining USC in the NCAA tournament unless they win the Pac-10 tournament. Washington enters this matchup on a four-game losing streak that likely ended its hopes of receiving an at-large berth.
Washington started the season winning seven straight and 10 of 11, but lost three straight and six of seven to open its Pac-10 schedule. The Huskies bounced back to win five of six before losing their last four—none by more than eight points.
The team closes the regular season against second-ranked UCLA on Saturday.
Despite scoring its highest point total in nearly a month on Saturday, Washington lost 93-85 to then-No. 23 Oregon. Ryan Appleby scored 21 points and Spencer Hawes added 20, but the Huskies were outscored 34-17 at the free-throw line and let the Ducks shoot 54.3 percent from the field.