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USC BASKETBALL

Marcus Simmons is the good kind of tired

His defense in the Pac-10 tournament was one of the reasons the Trojans earned the NCAA tournament berth.

March 17, 2009|Chris Foster

USC's Marcus Simmons was alive and well, and upright, Monday afternoon.

It was a dramatic change from when he was last seen, ice packs on his left ankle and left knee after spending three days chasing around smaller guards in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

From California's Jerome Randle to UCLA's Darren Collision to Arizona State's Derek Glasser, it was a tiring, but rewarding, weekend for Simmons.

"After that last game, I was exhausted," the 6-foot-6 sophomore said. "I needed a day off."

Simmons earned it.

His defense against those three point guards was one of the reasons the Trojans won three consecutive games to grab the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

His reward is another point guard to chase around: Boston College's Tyrese Rice, in a first-round game Friday in Minneapolis.

Coach Tim Floyd would not divulge if Simmons would be called upon again, saying, "We're going to keep that close to the vest," and that it depended on "matchups across the board." But it's a safe bet that Simmons will be eyeball-to-eyeball with Rice, a 6-0 senior who averaged 17 points to lead the Eagles.

Simmons knows the drill. Rice is the type who has given the Trojans trouble throughout the season.

"My basic game plan is to keep them in front of me," Simmons said. "When they start dribbling and trying to get me off balance, I get into them, get closer and make them aware that I'm there."

The style has recently been effective. Collison, considered one of the top point guards in the nation, was one-for-nine shooting against the Trojans on Friday.

"I should have given him my all-tournament trophy for the tremendous job he did," forward Taj Gibson said of Simmons.

Simmons averaged 2.8 minutes a game during the regular season, in part because of an ankle injury suffered in nonconference play.

He averaged 30 minutes in the three conference tournament games.

Film at 11 . . . and noon

USC does not lack for video evidence of how the Eagles play. Floyd said they have "about 26 hours of video of them at our disposal."

The Trojans have a video system that Floyd said "basically allows us to tape every game that's on TV.

[Boston College] is from a power conference and plays so much on TV."

And had the Trojans drawn a team from a conference shunned by ESPN and Fox Sports?

"It would have been difficult to find video," Floyd said. "We would have had to do a lot by telephone."

Taking it easy

The Trojans went through a light shootaround Monday.

"If it had been a quick turnaround where we played Thursday, [Monday] would have been more critical," Floyd said.

"This allows us to make sure we have our legs underneath us on Friday after going three consecutive days" in the conference tournament.

The Trojans came out of those games healthy. Their only injury was assistant Bob Cantu, who needed five stitches after being accidentally hit by fellow assistant Phil Johnson during Saturday's post-game celebration.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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