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USC BASKETBALL FYI

Sellout helped Trojans enjoy college excitement in 'pro town'

Players credit crowd for helping them beat UCLA on Sunday. But they're also realistic — it was only Trojans' fourth sellout since the arena opened in 2006, and as Coach Kevin O'Neill noted, competition from Lakers and others is fierce.

January 11, 2011|By Baxter Holmes

USC has played 76 men's basketball home games at the Galen Center since it opened in 2006, and only four have been sellouts at the 10,258-seat arena.

But Sunday's game was the first home sellout that USC won, as the Trojans (10-6, 2-1 in Pacific 10 Conference play) beat crosstown rival UCLA, 63-52.

USC players and coaches said the crowd keyed the win, and even UCLA freshman center Joshua Smith was impressed.

"The Galen Center, they have it pretty sweet," Smith said Tuesday. "It felt like an NBA game with their [scoreboard] and the lights and how they have the [picture window] that looks over downtown L.A."

Speaking of NBA games, USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said that while he's happy with however many fans do attend USC's games — the Trojans usually rank near the bottom of the Pac-10 in home attendance — he understands it's a tough draw because Los Angeles is a "pro town" where fans can watch a wide variety of teams compete on a daily basis.

"When you're in a pro town, you have to be special for people to come and watch you," O'Neill said.

O'Neill referenced Monday night's Bowl Championship Series football title game between Oregon and Auburn, saying he was torn between rooting for a friend and a fellow Pac-10 school versus hoping the Ducks would lose so USC's basketball game at Oregon's new Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday wouldn't be "a zoo."

"I know [Oregon football Coach] Chip Kelly personally, so I was hoping he would win," O'Neill said, adding that he met Kelly last summer. "It would have been a lot more raucous scene in Eugene [on Thursday], but I would have preferred for a Pac-10 team to win."

Auburn won, 22-19.

No harm, no foul

Following USC's win Sunday, UCLA's Smith voiced displeasure about the Trojans' high-fiving each other on the court with 40 seconds left in the game, calling it "a slap in the face."

USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic said if the Bruins felt slighted, it wasn't the Trojans' intent.

"We won the game, we were happy, so we just started celebrating. But we weren't trying to make them mad or disrespect them," Vucevic said. "We were just happy."

Injured Ducks

Oregon Coach Dana Altman said Ducks senior forward Joevan Catron (strained calf), junior forward Jeremy Jacob (sore knee) and junior guard Malcolm Armstead (sore knee) are questionable for Thursday's game and could be game-time decisions.

Catron leads the Ducks (7-9, 0-4) in scoring, at 15.9 points a game, and rebounding (6.4). Jacob averages 7.5 points and Armstead averages 6.4.

Etc.

An ESPN camera crew was on campus for two days this week shooting a behind-the-scenes look at the USC basketball team for a 30-minute special set to air on ESPNU Jan. 26 at 2:30 p.m. PST. David Kraft, a producer for ESPN, said ESPNU chose one team per conference to focus on for its series of specials, and that it chose USC for "a combination of an established basketball program with a very colorful, veteran coach." . . . USC is the only Pac-10 team that has yet to play a league road game.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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