GAME NOTES: Bob Cantu's stint as USC's interim head coach could end on Wednesday as the Trojans take on the Utah Utes in the first round of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship at MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Cantu did a great job since taking over mid-season for the relieved Kevin O'Neal, as he led the struggling Trojans to a 7-7 record after taking over a sub .500 team. The end of his stint as interim coach does not appear to be headed for a dazzling finish though. USC suffered back-to-back setbacks to Washington and Washington State to close out its season and it then lost leading rebounder Dewayne Dedmon and backup center James Blasczyk to indefinite suspensions for violations of team rules.
USC will need to rely on the trio of J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley and Jio Fontan in the Pac-12 tourney with Dedmon missing. Terrell is the team's leading scorer at 11.6 ppg and Wesley is the only other double-digit scorer with 10.3 ppg. Fontan chimes in with 9.5 points and 5.2 assists per tilt. USC has made 23 more field goals that its opponents this season, yet has been outscored by 59 points. USC's opponents have made 189 three-pointers to the Trojans' 163 and have made 79 more free throws. The Trojans are the third worst shooting team in the conference (.429), while also fitting into that spot in scoring (65.6 pg). The Trojans' biggest strength has at times been their biggest weakness.
USC has won three games in a row versus Utah to take a 17-14 all-time series lead. The winner of this game will advance to take on the second-seeded California Golden Bears.
Utah finished off the regular season with a sweep of the Oregon schools, defeating the Beavers, 72-61 on March 7 and the Ducks, 72-62, on Saturday. It marked the first time in history Utah has won back-to-back Pac-12 games, and now it will try to win its first Pac-12 Tournament game. The Utes led the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 62.9 points per game. They also ranked second in field goal percentage defense (0.397).
In the Utes' upset of Oregon, Jason Washburn led the way with a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds. Washburn went 8-of-10 from the floor, while Jarred DuBois (15 points), Jordan Loveridge (14 points) and Brandon Taylor (14 points) helped spread the floor. Utah won the rebounding battle, 31-28, and shot 65.5 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes to help secure the win. Utah is led in scoring by DuBois (12.2), Loveridge (11.9) and Washburn (11.8).
The shorthanded Trojans will have trouble advancing past the red-hot Utes, who seem ready to claim their first tournament win as a member of the Pac-12. USC will need a huge effort from its key players to make up for the absence of its best interior player.
Game Date and Time