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UCLA and USC get back to basketball

Both teams, which their coaches say have a 'long way to go,' will play at home Sunday night, the No. 11-ranked Bruins against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the Trojans against No. 25 San Diego State.

November 24, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • Ben Howland, right, Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA host Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Sunday.
Ben Howland, right, Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA host Cal Poly San Luis Obispo… (Elsa / Getty Images )

The UCLA and USC basketball teams return to action Sunday at home, and heading into those games both head coaches feel the exact same way about their teams.

"We've got a long way to go," USC's Kevin O'Neill said.

Said UCLA's Ben Howland: "We've got a long way to go."

Howland's No. 11-ranked Bruins (4-1) play host to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1-2) at 7 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion.

USC (3-2) faces No. 25 San Diego State (2-1) at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.

For USC and UCLA, it will be their first games since playing in tournaments against stiff competition.

The Bruins were in Brooklyn for the Legends Classic, where they lost to Georgetown and rebounded with a win against Georgia.

USC made a business-not-pleasure trip to the Maui Invitational, where it lost to Illinois, defeated Texas in overtime and lost to Marquette.

After those tournaments, Howland and O'Neill each said their teams were a work in progress.

Each team is counting on players new to the program. The Bruins debuted four freshmen from a star-studded recruiting class, plus North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II, who sat out last season.

The Trojans debuted five Division I transfers who sat out last season, plus guard Jio Fontan, who sat out last season after suffering a knee injury.

For the time being, both teams are still unfinished products.

"We're not very good in any one specific area right now," Howland said, adding that his team was especially poor when facing Georgetown's zone defense.

There have been glimpses of what these teams can do.

In an overtime win against Texas, USC held the Longhorns to 53 points.

"We learned how good of a defensive team we can be if we really lock in," Fontan said.

And UCLA learned that freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad, who played his first games of the season in Brooklyn, is as good as advertised.

Muhammad, one of the top-rated recruits in the nation this season, had to sit out UCLA's first three games before his eligibility was restored by the NCAA. He was previously ruled to have broken NCAA amateurism rules.

Muhammad scored 15 points in his debut against Georgetown and had a game-high 21 points in UCLA's four-point victory against Georgia.

"It's going to take him a little time, but he's getting better every day," Howland said.

Muhammad made his first start against the Hoyas and could start against San Luis Obispo because forward David Wear has a sore back.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

Twitter: @BaxterHolmes

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