For the Stanford men’s basketball team, the Pac-12 Conference season couldn’t come at a better time.
Despite coming off an uninspiring 65-59 victory over Lafayette on Saturday, Stanford has won five of its past six games entering today’s conference opener at Southern Cal. The Cardinal (9-4) are still seeking a signature win after losing nonconference games to Missouri, Minnesota and North Carolina State.
The Cardinal are last in the Pac-12 in shooting percentage at 40.9, but the team has shot better than 40 percent in each of their past three games.
With proven shooters such as guards Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle, it’s only a matter of time before the Cardinal move up in the Pac-12 rankings. Bright, who has struggled mightily since returning from an ankle injury that cost him four games earlier this season, is shooting 32.5 percent from the field and only 23.7 from 3-point range. Junior forward Josh Huestis, who matched his career-high with 14 rebounds against Lafayette, controls the paint along with forward Dwight Powell, who is averaging 14.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Picked ninth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, USC finished 6-26 last year and had only one victory in conference play. The Trojans have enjoyed better health this season, but the results have been disappointing after playing one of the most difficult nonconference schedules.
Forward Eric Wise scored a season-high 19 points in Sunday’s 63-61 overtime victory against Dayton, and averages a team-high 11.4 points. Wise, who is shooting 53.8 percent from the field, was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in the second half against the Flyers.
Junior forward Dewayne Dedmon averages 5.7 points and 7.1 rebounds, but hasn’t been the game-changer coach Kevin O’Neill anticipated.
USC has lost its past two games against Stanford, but leads the all-time series 121-120.