USC guard Donte Smith will be looking to give the Trojans an early offensive… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
Maurice Jones has started all 25 games in his college career, a streak that is likely to end Thursday against California at Berkeley when the 5-foot-7 freshman is scheduled to come off the bench for the first time.
"This is no knock on Mo," said USC Coach Kevin O'Neill, who plans to start senior Donte Smith in place of Jones. "We just have to try something."
O'Neill said he wants to go with Smith, who is second on the team in scoring at 10.3 points a game, to give the Trojans, 13-12 overall and 5-7 in Pacific 10 Conference play, an early offensive boost.
"We need Donte's scoring a little bit more, right off in the game," O'Neill said Wednesday. "Every game we've played in the last six we've been down right off."
Jones, who is averaging 9.7 points in a Pac-10-high 36.3 minutes per game, has no problem with the plan. "Donte is playing really well right now," he said.
Junior guard Jio Fontan will still start at the point guard position and move to off guard when Jones enters the game.
As for other tinkering, there's not much O'Neill can do with just a seven-man rotation. His options are limited, even when it comes to benching a player who is not performing well.
"You're kind of held hostage as a coach to their mistakes," O'Neill said.
Jones said he thinks it's good to learn to play through mistakes, especially since the Trojans lack experience at several key positions.
"I think it's kind of better to just learn from them as we go so we can get them all out of the way now," Jones said.
Jones has 57 steals, one shy of breaking into the Pac-10 all-time top 10 for steals by a freshman. … USC leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense, allowing 62.9 points per game, and is second in field-goal defense, opponents shooting 41.4%. … USC is 9-0 when it holds the opponent to 60 points or fewer.