The 14th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers go in search of their sixth straight win and 10th of the season, as they pull into the City of Angels for a non-conference clash with the USC Trojans.
Tubby Smith, who needs just one more victory to become the 19th active head coach to record 500 career wins, has led his Gophers to nine victories in their first 10 games, the lone setback coming against Duke during the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving day. Minnesota responded by knocking off three consecutive quality opponents in Memphis, Stanford and Florida State, and the team's last two victims have been North Florida and South Dakota State. UM will open Big Ten Conference play at home against Michigan State on New Year's Eve.
At the other end of the success spectrum lies a USC team that is hoping to put the brakes on a four-game slide, the team sporting a 3-5 record overall coming into this contest. The Trojans haven't won a home game since opening the season with a pair of victories over Coppin State and Long Beach State, and this bout marks the first of three straight the team will play at the Galen Center. In fact, USC will play six of its next seven at home, the final two being Pac-12 Conference tilts against Stanford and California. The Trojans' most recent outing resulted in a 75-67 setback at New Mexico on Wednesday.
The all-time series between these two teams favors Minnesota, 3-2, with the Gophers winning last year's encounter, 55-40.
Minnesota has been getting it done at both ends of the court this season, averaging 77.1 ppg in hitting 47.9 percent of its total shots while yielding just 61.0 ppg on 36.1 percent field goal efficiency. The Gophers boast four double-digit scorers, with Andre Hollins and his 13.7 ppg leading the way. Not content to simply score, Hollins is dishing out 3.6 apg as well, helping guys like Rodney Williams (12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Austin Hollins (12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Joe Coleman (10.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) make solid contributions as well. Andre Hollins nailed six 3-pointers en route to 22 points, as he led Minnesota to its 24-point rout of visiting South Dakota State earlier in the week. Austin Hollins hit three treys in tallying 17 points and Coleman tacked on 15 for the Gophers, who shot a sizzling 64.3 percent from the field in the first half, 56.9 percent for the game, while holding their overmatched opponent to just 38.6 percent. Sizable advantages in rebounding (38-26) and points in the paint (38-18) played a significant role in the outcome as well.
The offensively-challenged Trojans are averaging just 64.2 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .415 overall and .336 from beyond the arc. The team has just two players currently netting double figures on a consistent basis, but J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise combine for only 23.4 ppg so opponents rarely have to worry about the fireworks any one player or combination of players for that matter is about to unleash on them. Defensively, USC allows 67.5 ppg, with foes hitting 42.1 percent of their 3-point tries. The Trojans do a decent job in forcing an average of 15 turnovers per contest. Despite shooting a healthy 52.9 percent from the field and putting all five starters in double figures, USC still managed to come out on the short end of its recent visit to New Mexico. That's because the Lobos drained 11 3-pointers, and shot 52 percent from the floor themselves. Wise was high man for the Trojans with 14 points.