Trojans are being careful
PHOENIX – There might not be a more fearsome last-place team in any conference in the nation than Arizona State. The Sun Devils (6-19 overall, 0-14 Pac-10), USC’s opponent today, haven’t won a conference game but have been competitive of late, including a six-point loss to UCLA on Thursday in which ASU held a 10-point lead in the second half. USC’s players have been warned about a letdown all week. “It’s been the only time all year we’ve talked outside our next game,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “We’ve talked more about Arizona State this week than we have Arizona, because we knew the effort would be there for Arizona.” ASU has lost its past five games by six points or less, and three of those games were against ranked opponents. “You can’t sleep against those guys because every game they are there at the end,” USC guard Gabe Pruitt said. “We’re really concerned about coming in and playing against those guys.” The Sun Devils have stayed in games despite inferior talent because of the way they slow down the pace and create defensive battles. “I expect them to be where Washington State is in two years because they’re just so tough to play against,” Floyd said. “They play smart, play so well defensively and take such great shots. As their talent continues to improve, they are going to be right in the thick of (the Pac-10).” The good thief: Pruitt had a season-high four steals to lead USC’s defensive effort in Thursday’s 80-75 victory over Arizona, giving him eight steals in the past three games. “It’s just anticipation,” Pruitt said. “I saw a couple opportunities that I was able to get out in the passing lanes and get them. I kind of got away from it a little bit, but we’re at a real critical point of the season now.” Pruitt, who is seventh on USC’s all-time career list in steals with 132, averaged 2.2 steals per game last season but had just 13 through his first 12 games this season. Part of the decline in Pruitt’s takeaways is because Floyd doesn’t stress steals. “I don’t think it’s a critical stat,” Floyd said. “If it happens within our defense, that’s great. But steal attempts can put you out of position and allow teams to play five against four. We emphasize containment.” Scoring surplus: Young heard a lot of chatter about his scoring being being down early in the season. With his 26-point performance Thursday against Arizona, he eclipsed his scoring average from last season for the first time. Young is averaging 17.4 points per game, compared to 17.2 at the end of last season. He is averaging 19.8 points over the past eight games. “I knew if I kept being patient and didn’t worry about it, the scoring would come,” Young said. Tourney talk: USC can reach 20 victories and 10 conference wins by beating ASU, numbers that are usually seen as the benchmark for making the NCAA Tournament out of the Pac-10. “The coaches talk, and they say two more wins probably seals it,” Pruitt said. “I think our record right now should be good enough to make the tournament, but just to be on the safe side we’ve got to get a couple more wins.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!