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Facing Tulsa May Not Be a Break for Trojans

January 24, 1987|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

USC has a break in its Pacific 10 basketball schedule. So it would seem appropriate that the Trojans would line up a nonleague opponent that they were assured of beating.

Bethune-Cookman or Coe would do nicely at this juncture of the season.

Instead, USC will play Tulsa in a 3 p.m. game today at the Sports Arena.

Coach George Raveling said that Tulsa is as good as any team the Trojans have played this season with the possible exception of Western Kentucky.

"They're definitely an NCAA tournament team," Raveling said of Tulsa. "They have excellent athletes, they're experienced, have an outstanding coach, and they're one of the best outside shooting teams we'll have played. They're also a good fast-break team and have a good inside game."

Other than that, Tulsa is just an average team.

The Golden Hurricane, coached by J.D. Barnett, is 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Four starters are back from last year's team that went 23-9 and lost to Navy in a first-round NCAA tournament game, 87-68.

Raveling said that Tulsa has UCLA-type quickness and is out-rebounding and outscoring opponents by a substantial margin.

He also said that Tulsa has an outstanding shooting big man in 6-foot 11-inch forward Brian Rahilly, who is averaging 13 points a game. However, 6-7 forward David Moss and 6-4 guard Tracy Moore account for most of Tulsa's offense. They're averaging 14 and 18 points a game, respectively. As for his Trojans, 7-9 overall and 2-6 in the Pac-10, Raveling said their confidence and attitude were as good as they had been all season.

USC has won two of its last three games and Raveling said the mini-surge is attributed to the leadership of forward Derrick Dowell and center Rod Keller.

"These kids are trying to prove to USC fans and supporters that they aren't losers," Raveling said. "We believe we can finish fifth or sixth in the league. Nobody else thinks that, but when I study the schedule I don't think it's unrealistic at all."

USC is in ninth place, half a game behind Washington State in eighth place and a full game behind Oregon in seventh. The Trojans are 2 1/2 games out of sixth place.

Finishing sixth or better will give USC a significant advantage in the season-ending conference tournament at Pauley Pavilion.

Teams that finish one through six get first-round byes. The bottom four teams must play three consecutive games just to get into the championship bracket.

It's obvious that the Trojans aren't as talented as some other teams in the conference, but Raveling has no quarrel with their work ethic.

"Our kids want to improve and they want to win," he said. "They're far from discouraged. As I've said before, I enjoy coaching them because they're a neat bunch of kids to be around."

Trojan Notes Today's game will be televised by Channel 2 and broadcast by KNX radio. . . . The first 300 youngsters in attendance will be given cardinal and gold basketball nets. . . . Coach George Raveling said that senior forward Derrick Dowell is now drawing a crowd and that benefits the team. "When the defense comes to him, he has done a good job of passing off for easy dunks," Raveling said. Dowell is leading the Pac-10 in rebounds with an average of 9.2 a game. He is second in steals with a 2.1 average, and sixth in scoring with a 20.1 average. . . . Center Rod Keller is the conference's second-leading shot blocker with an average of two a game. . . . Raveling on the conference: "I wouldn't be surprised if the conference winner has as many as six losses." . . . Only the Pac-10 tournament winner is assured of an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, . . . USC is shooting only 41.9% from the field, compared to 47.3% for the entire 1985-86 season.

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