Trojans will look to record season sweep

first_imgLast season, while serving his NCAA-mandated year on the bench after transferring to USC from Fordham, junior guard Jio Fontan only traveled on one of the Trojans’ road trips — the trek to Westwood, where he watched USC dismantle UCLA in Pauley Pavilion 67-46.Inside presence · USC will look for a lift from seasoned senior center Alex Stepheson, who recorded a double-double in the Trojans’ January matchup at Galen Center against UCLA, finishing with 13 points and 16 rebounds in the victory. – Daily Trojan file photIt was the biggest win by the Trojans over the Bruins since the 1945 season.This year, Fontan was finally able to play against the crosstown rivals, scoring 10 points during USC’s 63-52 win in front of a sold-out crowd at the Galen Center Jan. 9.“We would be lying if we said it was just another game,” Fontan said. “We wanted that game a lot more than we want some of the other games.”In that game, junior forward Nikola Vucevic scored a game-high 20 points, helping the Trojans overcome a poor start and a halftime deficit.Senior forward Alex Stepheson contributed 13 points and 16 rebounds, including six offensive rebounds.This time around, Stepheson expects the Bruins to attack Vucevic and himself, but they will be prepared.“I’m excited for the challenge,” Stepheson said. “They’re just as hungry as we are, but it’ll be a good matchup.”With senior guard Marcus Simmons draped all over him, UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt only scored 10 points Jan. 9 and tied his season-high with seven turnovers.Bruins center Joshua Smith fouled out with eight points.“We know that [UCLA] will play better next time,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill after the game.The Trojans will find out whether the Bruins will play better in the second and final match-up of the rivalry in the regular season tonight at Pauley Pavilion.“I’m sure they’re going to make some adjustments,” O’Neill said. “We’re making some, but I hope we’re able to execute.”Since their last meeting, the teams have gone in opposite directions, with the Bruins going 5-1 and the Trojans compiling a 2-4 record.Both teams just came off their road trips, where they both beat Arizona State and lost to Arizona.The first half of conference play is done and the Trojans are now focused on controlling what they can control.“For us, we’re trying to fight for a [NCAA tournament berth],” O’Neill said. “Whether we belong in that picture is debatable or not, but we hope we have an opportunity for that.”During his tenure at USC, O’Neill  is undefeated in three games against UCLA, and the Trojans have beaten the Bruins four games in a row.But for USC to extend that win streak, O’Neill believes the team will need to rely on its defense.“I want us to play with a defensive edge,” O’Neill said. “This is a fact — if we don’t defend, we can lose to anyone. If we do defend, we have an opportunity to beat anyone.”With the opportunity to start the second half of conference play on the right foot, USC is looking to push its win streak to five games over UCLA, which would be the longest since the team won a school-record 42 consecutive games over a span of 12 seasons (1932-43).“If we’re fortunate to win tomorrow, it’ll be huge for us,” O’Neill said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, [we’ll be] fine._________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Here are some more thoughts from O’Neill after Tuesday’s practice:last_img read more

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Men’s volleyball takes two of three in its first tournament of the season

first_imgThe Trojans traveled to Honolulu over the weekend, kicking off their 50th season with two victories and one loss at the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Warrior Classic. The tournament began on Thursday with a 3-0 victory over the Concordia University Eagles. Redshirt senior captain Jack Wyett and senior captain Gianluca Grasso led the offense with 15 and 10 kills, respectively. Senior outside hitter Ryan Moss and redshirt sophomore setter Matt Faraimo contributed eight and seven kills, respectively. “When you’re in an environment like that with thousands of people, you can get the jitters a little bit, and that was our first real test of the year,” Douglas said. “They were really good. I don’t think we were able to match their level of execution, but it was the first tournament of the season, and we have a long way to go.” Senior outside hitter Gianluca Grasso led the team with 10 kills and two aces against Hawaii on Saturday. (Ling Luo/Daily Trojan) Despite the loss, Douglas said he thought the team did well facing a hostile crowd. The Trojans are now 2-1 for the season. They will travel to Lebanon, Tenn., this weekend to compete in the Off The Block Grow the Game Challenge. On Friday, they take on Lincoln Memorial at 5 p.m. PST.  On Saturday, they will face Barton at 2:30 p.m. PST. On Sunday, they play Lindenwood at 2:30 p.m. PST. All games will be available to stream on the Cumberland Sports Network. “I thought we did a good job sticking together in a foreign environment with not many fans rooting for us,” he said. “We had to really galvanize, make sure we were there for each other and be engaged the whole time.” The momentum continued on Friday as the Trojans defeated the New Jersey Institute Highlanders 3-1 in a 25-17, 24-26, 25-23, 25-15 match. Moss led the offense with 15 kills and contributed significantly on defense with eight digs and four blocks. Sophomore setter Chris Hall and sophomore libero Cole Paxson each had nine digs of their own.center_img Despite wins on Thursday and Friday, USC fell to No. 4 Hawaii on Saturday in a 12-25, 23-25, 16-25 match. Junior opposite Rado Parapunov and senior outside hitter/opposite Stijn Van Tilburg led the Warriors with 16 and 15 kills, respectively. Beyond that, the Trojans spent a lot of time in the week leading up to the tournament scouting their opponents and preparing accordingly. When it came time to execute, coaches emphasized that the team’s effort would pay off. “We worked extremely hard all off-season and all preseason, so they let us know that we were ready to go, we deserved to be out there and to give it all we have,” Douglas said. Grasso led the Trojan offense with 10 kills and two aces, while Douglas led the defense with 11 digs. USC put up a strong fight throughout the match and managed to pick up a 10-9 lead in the second set. The Warriors pulled ahead again before the Trojans narrowed the margin back to 23-22, but ultimately let it slip to a 25-23 set. The Trojans maintained strong leads in each of the three sets against the Eagles with scores of 25-14, 25-18, 25-14. USC will see Concordia again later in the season in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference play. Because it was the first tournament of the season, the Trojans focused on team building. Senior libero Matt Douglas said the weekend was an opportunity for upperclassmen to teach their younger teammates “how to conduct business on and off the court.” last_img read more

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