A matchup between Pac-10 power Southern California and Cal Poly - a little-known program from the mid-major Big West, would appear to be a mismatch. Taking the Mustangs lightly, though, has come back to haunt the Trojans in the past.
The No. 25 Trojans look to avoid a big upset and record their second consecutive easy victory when they host Cal Poly on Saturday.
This game comes four years to the day after the only previous meeting between these schools - also at Los Angeles. In that Dec. 22, 2003 matchup, the Mustangs overcame a three-point halftime deficit and stunned USC 93-78.
Cal Poly has not defeated a Pac-10 team since.
The Trojans (7-3) dropped two straight games earlier this month, losing by four points each to then-No. 4 Kansas and then-No. 2 Memphis. After an extended layoff for final exams, they responded with one of their best offensive games of the season and defeated Delaware State 83-54 on Monday.
USC shot a season-high 68.1 percent from the field, falling just short of the school record - 71.1 percent against San Jose State in 1983. The Trojans went 10-for-15 from 3-point range and had four players score in double figures, led by sophomore guard Dwight Lewis with 18 points.
“It was pretty fun,” said freshman forward Davon Jefferson, who added 17 points and seven rebounds while shooting 7-for-9 from the field. “We were getting great looks and players were knocking it down like they’re supposed to.”
Coach Tim Floyd was most satisfied with his team’s season-high 24 assists. The Trojans had a total of 23 assists in their previous three games
“I’m really pleased with our unselfishness,” Floyd said. “We made the extra pass.”
Floyd’s club also played well defensively, allowing only one Delaware State player to score in double figures and allowing just 38.2 percent field-goal shooting.
Those numbers were fairly typical for this season’s Trojans, who are limiting opponents to 59.6 points per games and 38.8 percent shooting.
It was the offense, though, that struggled in the losses to Kansas and Memphis - games in which USC failed to reach 60 points and shot below 40 percent, including a season-low 28.8 clip against Memphis on Dec. 4.
Leading scorer O.J. Mayo’s shooting, in particular, struggled with his shot in those games, going a combined 12-for-41 from the floor. He fared much better Monday, shooting 5-for-6 - a personal season low for attempts - and finishing with 12 points.
Monday’s victory opened a three-game homestand for the Trojans, who will host UC-Riverside next Saturday. USC will also remain within its home state for its next two road matchups, visiting California and Stanford the first week in January as Pac-10 conference play begins.
The Trojans are 2-2 at home this season.
Cal Poly (5-5) is 1-4 on the road this season, but is coming off a 66-56 home win last Saturday over Cal State Bakersfield last Saturday. Junior guard Trae Clark had 15 points to lead the Mustangs, while senior forward Matt Hanson added 14 points and eight rebounds.