No. 5 Nevada sees opportunity against USC

No. 5 Nevada has an opportunity to justify its national ranking in a road test against USC, which will be looking to make its case for a spot in the Top 25 on Saturday.

Nevada (7-0) is coming off a road win against Loyola Chicago, which upset the Wolf Pack in last season's Sweet 16. The Wolf Pack is hoping to use its next two games in Los Angeles -- it plays Arizona State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic next Friday -- to gain more national attention and prove how competitive it can be.

"The next two opponents, especially with them being in the Pac-12, will be a big test for us especially since we're in kind of a smaller conference," said Nevada senior forward Trey Porter. "It's a way we can prove ourselves."

Porter, who played last season at Old Dominion, is one of many transfers on the team. Nevada is one of the oldest teams in the country, and these veteran players will be an asset against USC. With three key seniors returning from last season, head coach Eric Musselman has numerous offensive weapons on a team that averages 90.1 points per game.

"The key to us is just sharing the basketball," Musselman said. "We've got veteran players and they're smart. They like playing with each other, and our chemistry on the floor keeps getting better and better."

The Wolf Pack will look to the returning trio of Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline to ignite its offense. Caleb Martin, a preseason All-American, scored 21 points against Loyola Chicago and 29 against UMass in the past two games. He is averaging a team-best 21.0 points per game.

The Trojans (5-2) are coming off a 10-point victory against Long Beach State on Wednesday, when head coach Andy Enfield wasn't thrilled with the offense.

"We missed some very easy shots and did not pass the ball as well as we had been the past few games," Enfield said. "We need to rebound the ball better."

USC's defense has been strong, keeping its opponents at only 37.8 percent from the field this season. The Trojans, however, have struggled with rebounding, allowing Long Beach State to get 19 offensive rebounds.

Junior post player Nick Rakocevic scored 19 against Long Beach and had 12 rebounds. He is second on the team in scoring (14.6 ppg) behind senior forward Bennie Boatwright (16.8 ppg).

Starting guard Derryck Thornton did not play against Cal State Bakersfield last week due to a sprained ankle, and he tweaked the ankle again on Wednesday.

This is just one of many injuries that have afflicted USC's roster this season. Star freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. has been out with a quad contusion and is still listed as day to day. Boatwright missed the beginning of the season due to a knee injury. Just last week, USC only had eight scholarship players available for a game.

The veteran leadership of Thornton, Rakocevic and Boatwright could make or break this game for USC against an experienced Nevada squad.

"Their team is full of vets and we just need to play smart," Rakocevic said. "We need to do the simple things. Just play together, box out, play defense, and that's what our main focus is on going to practice."
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