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USC BASKETBALL

Trojans Must Adjust to New Pace

January 14, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Playing Washington State after Washington in basketball is like trying to connect on a knee-buckling curveball one pitch after seeing a 95-mph fastball. It doesn't seem fair.

But that's the challenge USC faces today at the Sports Arena as it tries to end a two-game slide before opening a three-game trip next week.

"Washington is more up-tempo, more up and down, whereas Washington State is going to be more patient and make you work a little bit more on defense," USC senior guard Dwayne Shackleford said. "They're probably going to use the whole shot clock to get their shot."

The Cougars' deliberate approach helped them notch an upset over Washington last week and come within a missed layup of extending UCLA to overtime Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

Sophomore guard Josh Akognon has become Washington State's main scoring threat in the wake of an injury to leading scorer Derrick Low. Akognon scored 27 points against the Huskies and tallied all 25 of his points against the Bruins in the second half.

"Every time he shoots it, I think it's going in," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "He's got a quick release, and like most good perimeter players who play in motion, he works hard offensively.

"A lot of guys don't understand how hard you have to play offensively, but he really cuts and gets himself in position to come off screens for separation."

For his part, Floyd said all the hullabaloo about Cougar Coach Dick Bennett's slow-it-down approach was overblown.

"Washington State doesn't necessarily hold the basketball, they control tempo defensively," Floyd said. "They get back defensively and don't give up easy baskets. They guard inbounds plays and don't foul. I think it's a real shame that people have labeled [Bennett] because there's not a better basketball coach in the country."

The Cougars, 9-4 overall and 2-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference, check in at No. 29 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index.

USC (11-5, 2-3) finds itself in ninth place in the Pac-10 standings.

*

TODAY

vs. Washington State, 5 p.m., FSN West 2

Site -- Sports Arena.

Radio -- 1540.

Records -- USC 11-5 overall, 2-3 Pac-10; Washington State 9-4, 2-2.

Update -- Trojan center Abdoulaye N'diaye did not practice Friday after aggravating the ankle he sprained in practice Tuesday. Washington guard Brandon Roy came down on it in the second half Thursday. N'diaye said the pain had subsided somewhat and he was expected to play against the Cougars.

Tickets -- (213) 740-4672.

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