On a night made for two—hopefully this isn’t the reminder you needed about Valentine’s day—Stanford begins its second run through Pac-12 opponents when it hosts USC tonight.
Two is actually a fitting number to sum up the Card’s and Trojan’s second date of the season.
USC defeated Stanford by that amount in their previous meeting in January. A pair of free throws by senior guard Jio Fontan, who finished with a team high 15 points, put the Trojans ahead for good at 71-69. Sophomore guard Chasson Randle had a chance to tie the game but missed a layup, and junior forward Dwight Powell missed the put-back dunk. Randle was held scoreless in the January meeting—uncharacteristic for the starter who is averaging 13.6 ppg—after averaging 13 points in the 2011-2012 series against USC.
Two is also the number of losses Stanford has at home—the Card is 10-2 at Maples Pavilion—as well as the number of wins USC has on the road. USC is 2-6 on foreign courts. Their first away win came at lowly Utah, but their second win was against a strong UCLA team. The Trojans have experienced a marked improvement overall since both games and are coming into Maples off of a three game win streak, winning four of their past six games.
Stanford’s home losses came against Washington State and Colorado, but since the Colorado loss, the Cardinal is 4-5 overall.
The Cardinal and Trojans are cuddled up in the standings, too. The teams are part of a four-way tie for fifth place, but only two games separate that pack from the three-way tie for first.
Despite the trend of deuces, three-point shooting will probably be the deciding factor in this game. Stanford leads the league in shooting percentage from long range during Pac-12 play at 45.1 percent. USC, while not exactly right on its heels, stands second at 36.8 percent.
Stanford’s percentage is bolstered by junior center John Gage’s outlandish accuracy in Pac-12 play. He is shooting 63.3 percent on 21-33 shooting in Pac-12 games this season.
Gage has provided Stanford with bursts of scoring when coming off of the bench, even with limited playing time. The reserve is seeing only 13 minutes per game of court time this season, despite being the Pac-12’s most accurate three-point shooter.
He’ll have some competition for long-range supremacy, though. USC’s junior guard J.T. Terrel is leading the conference with 2.3 made three-pointers per game during Pac-12 play. He is also in the top 20 in scoring in conference games with 10.6 points per game.
Still, on the season Gage is averaging fewer points per game (six ppg) than every starter except for senior forward Andy Brown (5.9 ppg). Brown has solidified his spot in the starting lineup for the Cardinal, which went through so many changes earlier in the season. Head coach Jonny Dawkins seems to have settled with Brown in the starting lineup after having started 12 different players throughout the year.
Brown, typically a role player, had a record setting scoring night against USC in January. He finished with a career and game high 17 points coming off of the bench.
Leading the Trojans in scoring is senior forward Eric Wise with 12.3 ppg. Wise is both the playmaker and shot taker, shooting 49% from the field.
USC may have scorers, but they don’t have the rebounding force of Powell and junior forward Josh Huestis. Powell is averaging 15.1 ppg with 6.9 rpg, while Huestis is averaging nine points and nine rebounds per game.
Randle and Powell will be looking for revenge and making every layup and put-back to ensure the game doesn’t go down to the final seconds of play for a second time. USC has also won six of the past 10 meetings against the Card, so they’ll be hungry to make it seven.
Here is a final Valentine’s Day morsel to help move dinner conversation along: Stanford has lost its past two games played on February 14th and has not hosted a game on this date since 1993.