UCLA-USC Men's Basketball Preview

Feb. 7, 2001

LOS ANGELES - There's more to Thursday's UCLA-USC basketball game than the ever-present crosstown rivalry. At stake is precious ground in the Pac-10 race, where the second-place Bruins lead the Trojans by a game.

"Whoever wins this game has an edge for the Pac-10 (title)," UCLA's Jason Kapono said. Both teams trail first-place Stanford (8-1).

"This is big," USC center Brian Scalabrine said. "To be good, to be great, you've got to knock these guys off."

No. 22 USC (16-5, 6-3) is undefeated in 10 games at the Sports Arena, where the Trojans beat UCLA 91-79 in a series split last season.

UCLA (13-6, 7-2) has been out of the Top 25 for most of the season, but has won nine of its last 11, including a road upset of then-No. 1 Stanford last weekend.

"Sparks are going to fly as soon as we meet," said UCLA guard Earl Watson, a senior playing in the series for the last time.

"It's like two trains coming head to head and the toughest team is going to win the game," he said. "It's going to be a brawl. I love being part of games like that."

On Jan. 11 at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins won 80-75 after letting a 19-point lead evaporate in the second half. The Trojans committed 28 turnovers.

"I guarantee that won't happen this time," said Scalabrine, who was in foul trouble most of the game.

Neither team is backing down from the kind of emotion that ignited the last game, which began with three technical fouls.

"It's going to be real emotional the first five minutes, and the team that can calm itself down and continue to execute is going to be the team that dominates the game," Watson predicted.

A month ago, UCLA center Dan Gadzuric fouled USC's Desmon Farmer hard enough to knock Farmer to the ground, and Gadzuric and Scalabrine received technicals after the play.

Watson was called for an intentional foul on USC's David Bluthenthal, who received a technical for saying something to Watson.

"It's been the best SC-UCLA game I've been a part of as far as both teams being talented and both teams having a style of play that is just fun to watch," Watson said.

A month ago, USC guard Jeff Trepagnier was just getting back to basketball.

Trepagnier came off the bench against UCLA, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 34 minutes. His teammates expect him to have a bigger impact this time.

"I think he turned the corner," Bluthenthal said about Trepagnier's play last weekend.

At California, Trepagnier had 19 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, four assists and a huge dunk that stunned his teammates.

"I'd like to see Jeff become aggressive like he was against Cal," said USC coach Henry Bibby, who is 1-9 against his alma mater. "He brings a lot of energy."

Sam Clancy, the Pac-10's leading scorer at 20.1 points, scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against UCLA.

"I was a little embarrassed. We had several chances to win. No one played well that night," Clancy said. "We're starting to get on a roll. That wasn't the case a few weeks ago. Now everyone is picking up their play. We're getting more guys to play every night on a consistent basis."

AP Sports Writer

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