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Oklahoma is big test for DeRozan, USC

Trojans' first real road game of the season comes against Sooners, who are unbeaten and ranked sixth in nation.

December 04, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

DeMar DeRozan is accustomed to the spotlight.

He arrived at USC regarded as one of the premier freshmen in college basketball, a player who might follow former Trojan O.J. Mayo with a one-and-done stopover en route to the NBA.

Tonight, the 6-foot-7 forward from Compton will play in his first marquee college game when the Trojans visit No. 6 Oklahoma.

"I tell myself just be patient," said DeRozan, who is averaging nearly 10 points a game. "I've got a team backing me so I just go out there and play with the team.

"I don't feel like I've got to do so much just because it's a high-profile game."

Coach Tim Floyd agrees.

"He's not any different than any freshman," Floyd said. "He just has to go through these experiences. He'll be better the second and third time."

The matchup against the Sooners marks the first real road test for the Trojans.

USC ran its home record to 4-0 on Monday with a victory over San Francisco, but went 1-2 on a neutral court in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last month.

The Trojans are looking forward to playing against an Oklahoma team that is 6-0, the Sooners' best start since they went 10-0 in 2003. Oklahoma this week jumped five spots in the Associated Press media poll.

"The pressure is going to be all on them because they have the little number in front of their name," Trojans guard Daniel Hackett said. "We're going in with confidence. We know we're capable of stealing one if we play the right way."

Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin scored four points and took nine rebounds in last season's 66-55 loss to the Trojans at the Galen Center. This season, he is averaging 25.7 points and 19.2 rebounds.

"It's been a long, long time since I've seen rebounding numbers like that at this point in the season," Floyd said.

Taj Gibson is averaging 11 rebounds for the Trojans, Leonard Washington eight.

DeRozan is taking 4.4 rebounds and making 44% of his shots. However, he has missed all seven of his three-point attempts.

"We've been practicing really hard lately -- I don't think he ever practiced like that at Compton High," Hackett said. "He just has to keep his head up."

Based on his own experience as a freshman two years ago, guard Dwight Lewis said he would offer DeRozan simple advice.

"Just play defense," Lewis said. "If you play defense, that will get you into the game and after that it will come easy."

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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