Game Preview: Gophers at Southern Cal 12/8/12

#14/#21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-1) at Southern California Trojans (3-5)

Saturday, December 8, 2012 | 9:30pm CT | TV/Online: PAC-12 Network

The Gophers travel to Southern Cal for a Saturday night contest against the struggling Trojans, losers of four in a row. Coach Kevin O’Neill’s roster is filled with upperclassmen, but age has not translated to success for his team. Nearly 80% of USC’s minutes have been played by seniors and juniors (sophomore guard Byron Wesley averages 29.5 mpg), including a trio of 7-footers, however there has been little consistency in play on either side of the ball.

Minnesota beat USC 55-40 at Williams Arena last December. This year’s Trojans are better than the 2011-12 squad that finished 6-26, but to be blunt they’re not a good team.

The Gophers on the other hand are coming off another impressive showing, having beaten the Nate Wolter-less South Dakota State Jackrabbits Tuesday night in an 88-64 laugher. Minnesota shot a season-best 65.5% eFG% and limited their turnover rate to less than 20% for a third consecutive contest. Dre Hollins was in unconscious mode again, scoring 22 points on 8/9 shooting (including 6/7 3FG) and an eFG% of 122%.

North Dakota State visits Minneapolis this coming Tuesday and we think that’s a far tougher game for the Gophers than USC. The Trojans aren’t much of a threat from deep and while some of their players look the part, they haven’t been playing like it. Nonetheless, it’s a road game against a team that is feeling desperate for a victory so Minnesota should be met with a decent level of fight.

From an individual player perspective, UC-Irvine transfer #34 Eric Wise (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has been very good. He’s a strong  6’6”, 240 pound senior that had to take on a greater scoring role at his former school than he does at USC. With more help around him, Wise has improved his shot selection and continues to be a good defensive rebounder for his size.

Of the big men, #14 Dewayne Dedmon (6.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is the most intriguing. The 7’0”, 255 pound redshirt junior is a 23-year old who didn’t play basketball until he was a senior in high school due in large part to being a Jehovah’s Witness.

Last year Dedmon dealt with a few different injuries and against Minnesota he was hobbled but still saw 26 minutes of action (2 points on 1/5 shooting, 4 rebounds). His 2011-12 season ended in January with a torn MCL, but he’s averaged almost 23 minutes per game this year. Dedmon possesses a great wingspan and moves very well at his size. Every now and then he has a moment that keeps you believing that he might be able to realize much of his potential, but clearly he has a ways to go.

#20 J.T. Terrell (12.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) is a 6’3” gunner who is willing to take some acrobatic shots, but comes into Saturday night with an eFG% of just 42.1% (18/50 3FG for 36.0%, but just 13/45 2FG for 28.9%). He’s the one player who can rack up a lot of points for USC if he finds his groove.

Terrell, #51 in the 2010 RSCI, attended Wake Forest as a freshman and put 32 on the Iowa Hawkeyes including a game-winning trey with 2.7 seconds left. Last season he played junior college ball at Peninsula JC (Wash.) and averaged 24.4 points per contest.

Saturday night’s game is being carried by the PAC-12 Network which is problematic for much of the Twin Cities crowd interesting in viewing the contest. A PAC-12 Network channel finder can be found HERE.

Some things we’ll be keeping an eye on:

  • Elliot Eliason vs. the USC big men: Eliason has been solid for Minnesota this year, but he’s often looked weak when defending on the blocks. Opposing offensive bigs have had success pushing Eliason toward the hoop with their back to the basket.
  • Turnovers: The level of Gopher turnovers in the past three games hasn’t been very low compared to the average college basketball team, but they’ve been low for the Gophers. Can they continue this promising trend against the Trojans?
  • Speaking of turnovers, would you think that the Gophers’ miscues occur more often at a certain time of the game? Late Night Hoops dug into the detail and found that the splits we looked at – four 10-minute intervals – were quite even:
    Time range (mins) Half 1, 1st 10 Half 1, 2nd 10 Half 2, 1st 10 Half 2, 2nd 10 TOTAL
    # of Turnovers  35  40  37  39  151
    % of Total  23.2%  26.5%  24.5%  25.8%  100%
  • Bounce back time for Rodney: Against SDSU, senior forward Rodney Williams registered just 2 points and 2 rebounds in 29 minutes on 1/6 FG shooting. He took out some of his offensive frustrations on defense with 4 aggressive blocked shots and hopefully he’s able to let the past be the past and come out with only USC on his mind. Williams has been excellent this year and it would be nice to see a strong performance Saturday, but he should not force the issue on offense.
  • Welch is due: Senior guard Julian Welch shot just 2/7 (0/4 3FG) against SDSU, but a few of his misses were ever-so-slightly off. Many of his attempts this year have been line drive lasers instead of arched shots aimed for the bottom of the net. This shooting issue is partly mechanical in nature and will improve. We continue to view him as an important piece of this season’s team and believe he is still underutilized. Last year against the Trojans, Julian led the Gophers with 16 points and 6 assists.

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