It's first things first at USC. They retire Cheryl Miller's number before the end of the season, proving that the talented basketball player is truly ahead of her time.
Miller is not expected to play the final five regular-season games without a number, of course. But at least the move provides conversation, especially during dull games like Thursday night's, when seventh-ranked USC smothered Stanford, 88-62, in a Pac West contest at the Sports Arena.
Only the frequent announcements that Miller's No. 31 was to be retired later in the night (the first time a number has been retired in the Trojan basketball program, men's or women's) kept the crowd of 1,596 from nodding off.
USC (23-3 overall, 7-0 in the conference) nearly got ahead of itself on another front. The Trojans were playing Stanford but daydreaming of Long Beach, the arch-rival they play Saturday. Certainly the Cardinal (11-13, 0-5) didn't remind anyone of the fast-breaking 49ers.
Stanford has been beset by injuries this season, with seven of its 16 players having missed at least half the season. Of the seven, two redshirted and one suffered a career-ending injury.
Thus, youth took the floor for Stanford. At several junctures, the Cardinal had three freshmen and two sophomores in the game against USC.
But these were brainy kids from Stanford, remember. They figured out the Trojan press well enough to lead early in the first half. Further analysis was not forthcoming, and USC held a 48-31 lead at the half.
"Stanford did a good job of blocking out," USC Coach Linda Sharp said. "They are very disciplined and they play within their limitations. They did a good job with the press at first, then we made some adjustments in the second half."
Fittingly, Miller had a good night. Her 36 points came under leisurely conditions. For the first time in half a season, she seemed relaxed and loose. The fact that Stanford defenders weren't glued to her may have contributed to her air of ease.
Cherie Nelson, a freshman, scored 17 points and gave the Trojans a much-needed presence underneath. Cynthia Cooper had 15 points and 3 assists.
The Trojans were unable to shut down Jill Yanke, Stanford's 6-5 center. Yanke showed a fine shooting touch and led the Cardinal with 23 points.