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USC BASKETBALL

Little guards go a long way against USC

The Trojans, whose starting guards are 6-5, have struggled to contain small, quick players like UCLA's Darren Collison, Washington's Isaiah Thomas and Arizona's Nic Wise.

February 11, 2009|Chris Foster

USC's basketball team tends to have an answer for most problems on the court, but when it comes to pest-like guards, the Trojans are often left swatting at air.

That could be an issue again Thursday, when USC plays at Arizona. The Wildcats are run by Nic Wise, a 5-foot-10 junior guard. Wise had 11 points and six assists against the Trojans on Jan. 17. USC carved out a 65-64 victory but had no answer for Wise.

"There is an old saying in basketball that size is an overrated thing," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "A small guy is going to be able to take the ball around a big guy."

As simplistic as that sounds, it has been trouble for the Trojans, who have Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis at guard. Both are 6-5. UCLA's Darren Collison (6 feet) and Washington's Isaiah Thomas (5-8) also had success against USC this season.

"You have a quick guard and you're able to work screen and rolls," Floyd said. "That gets you high-percentage shots. . . . We have to give help on Wise. But that can open things up for their big players."

Wise controlled the tempo in the first meeting, handing out assists to center Jordan Hill and forward Chase Budinger.

"Guys like him give us trouble because we have big guards," Lewis said. "We have to try to use our length against him."

A week's furlough

A few days off from Pacific 10 Conference play may have done wonders for the Trojans' disposition, but little to help their position.

Last Wednesday, the Trojans were soundly beaten in a 76-60 loss to UCLA.

"We already put that behind us," Hackett said. "We just got smacked."

But the seven days between games have had a more significant effect. The Trojans have slipped to fifth place in the conference, heading into this week's trip to play Arizona and Arizona State.

Having a week's breather "complicates things," Floyd said. But he also said it allowed the Trojans to "address the mistakes [against UCLA]. We pointed out the positives and harped on the negatives."

The week off did help with injuries. Taj Gibson, who suffered a dislocated finger on his left hand against UCLA, said he would play Thursday.

"It's still hurts a lot," Gibson said. "It's going to be tough, but I have to weather through it. I have to be here for my team."

Johnson out

Marcus Johnson, who sat out the UCLA game because of a right shoulder injury, is not expected to play against Arizona. Johnson said he can raise his arm, but "there's a lot of pain when I move it around."

Floyd said the team still did not have a complete diagnosis on the injury.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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