AUSTIN, Tex. — USC has a commitment to play Texas here today in a nonconference basketball game that falls peculiarly at the end of a tight conference race for the Trojans.
When USC Coach Stan Morrison obliged Texas Coach Bob Weltlich by switching a December game to March, he probably had no idea that his team would be protecting a one-game lead in the Pacific 10 with two games left, or that the Trojans would be coming off an exhausting, four-overtime win over UCLA.
But that's the way it stands. USC, 12-4 in the conference, can clinch at least a tie for the title by winning one of its final two conference games.
The Trojans will close out the regular season against Oregon (8-8) and Oregon State Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively, at the Sports Arena. Oregon State and Washington, each 11-5, could move up a notch if USC stumbles.
In the 1960s, USC and UCLA met three times in conference competition. For the sake of the players, but not the fans, it's just as well that they don't adhere to that schedule now.
The old adversaries have battled through six overtime periods in two games this season. USC won in double overtime Feb. 1 at the Sports Arena, 78-77, then edged the Bruins in four overtimes Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, 80-78.
It was the first time since 1942, when the teams met four times each season, that the Trojans have swept a season series from the Bruins.
It was also the first time since 1961--the last time USC won a conference championship--that the Trojans have won two games from the Bruins in a season. USC has won three straight from UCLA, and Morrison has a 6-6 record against the Bruins in his six seasons at USC.
But back to Texas.
The Longhorns, 14-12 overall and 7-9 in the Southwest Conference, are winding up a lackluster season. They'll play in the conference tournament this week but aren't expected to make much of an impact.
Texas is led by 6-foot-9 senior forward Mike Wacker, son of TCU football Coach Jim Wacker. Wacker tore up his left knee in 1982 and wasn't expected to play basketball again. He has had a remarkable rehabilitation, however, and is the team's leading scorer, with a 16.3-point average, and rebounder, with an 8.3 mark.
Alex Broadway, a New Yorker whose middle name is Great--no kidding--is the freshman playmaker. A transfer from North Carolina, 6-10 center John Brownlee, is the team's second-leading scorer.
Weltlich's team likes to attack inside, as does USC. Texas was a factor in the Southwest Conference a few years ago under Abe Lemons, a homespun humorist.
Lemons was fired after the 1981-82 season, though, and Weltlich replaced him. Weltlich isn't as funny as Lemons and his record isn't as good as Lemons'. He won only six games his first season, seven the next and has shown some improvement this season, although the progress is slow.
Trojan Notes Today's game will be televised by Channel 11 starting at noon at the Erwin Special Events Center, better known as the Superdrum. . . . USC forward Wayne Carlander scored a career-high 38 points against UCLA and needs only 16 more to break John Rudometkin's school record of 1,484. Carlander played 59 minutes against UCLA, and Stan Morrison may rest his star forward from time to time today. . . . Ron Holmes went 57 minutes against the Bruins and did a commendable job of tracking forward Reggie Miller, who wound up with 20 points but got only one basket in the four overtimes. Holmes had an off night, though, at the offensive end. An 81% free-throw shooter, he was only 5 for 12 from the line and 4 for 11 from the field. USC made only 30 of 48 free throws, while UCLA cashed in on only 14 of 27. USC survived in the overtimes even though forward Derrick Dowell and center Clayton Olivier had fouled out in regulation play. Dowell, who had 24 points and 21 rebounds in the first meeting with the Bruins, could score only four points and grab four rebounds while playing 29 minutes. . . . Carlander made 14 of 19 shots, but his teammates made only 11 of 35. . . . Texas ripped USC, 87-68, in a game at Austin in 1979. That USC team finished second in the conference and played in the NCAA tournament.