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Tuesday, December 04, 2007 - USC Takes on Memphis

USC Takes on Memphis

The arguments about which freshman phenom is better began long ago, but nothing has yet happened to settle those arguments.

Memphis' Derrick Rose and Southern California's O.J. Mayo finally meet on the floor for the first time in college Tuesday night when the second-ranked Tigers and 24th-ranked Trojans face off in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Memphis -8 point spread favorites for today’s game. Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Memphis -8.

Rose and Mayo were two of the most heavily recruited guards in their class, and both figure to be early selections in next summer's NBA draft. Both players have also gotten off to hot starts in their collegiate careers.

The 6-foot-4 Rose has helped Memphis (6-0) match the highest ranking in school history (ACTUALLY, THIS IS FALSE - MEMPHIS WAS #1 IN THE AP POLL FOR A WEEK DURING THE DANA KIRK ERA BUT LOST IN BLACKSBURG, VA THE SAME DAY THE POLLS CAME OUT, ed). The Tigers, who are No. 2 for the first time since the 1985-86 season, haven't started 6-0 since 1995-96.

Rose is averaging 17 points, and is coming off perhaps his best game of the season. He had 19 points and 12 assists in a 104-82 win over Austin Peay last Tuesday.

"I'm getting to know the offense a little more and I'm finding open guys," Rose said. "That's what (Memphis) coach (John Calipari) told me to do - find open guys and attack."

Mayo, meanwhile, has more than twice as many points as any other Trojan, averaging 21 through the season's first eight games. He had a team-high 19 in USC's 59-55 loss to then-No. 4 Kansas in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series Sunday, but shot just 6 of 21 from the field.

"They showed their experience and poise when they needed to and we did not," USC coach Tim Floyd said. "We played frustrated and took quick shots. It's the way it is with youth."

The Trojans (6-2) started five underclassmen against Kansas, as freshman Davon Jefferson had 17 points and sophomore Daniel Hackett added 11. Jefferson didn't play in USC's first three games, but is averaging 14.4 points since.

USC lost its season opener 96-81 to Mercer, but followed that up with six straight wins. However, the loss to Kansas was the Trojans' 14th straight against top 5 opponents, dating back to a home win over then-No. 2 Arizona in January 2000.

Memphis presents another top 5 test, and not just because of Rose. Junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts averages 21.8 points, and is shooting 58 percent from the field. Sophomore Willie Kemp is 17-for-35 from 3-point range, while Joey Dorsey - the Tigers' lone senior - has averaged 9.3 rebounds after missing Memphis' first two games with a shoulder problem.

Transfer Shawn Taggart, a 6-10 sophomore who sat out last season after transferring from Iowa State, had a breakout game against Austin Peay, scoring a career-high 17 points and diving for loose balls after drawing criticism from Calipari for jogging the floor the previous week.

"If he dives on the floor and goes after balls like that, everybody in the city of Memphis is going to be happy," Calipari said. "If he plays like that, it's scary how good he can be."

USC and Memphis have played only twice, splitting two meetings. The Trojans won the most recent affair 92-65 in November 1999 at the Maui Invitational.

Memphis has played at Madison Square Garden 14 times in Calipari's eight seasons, posting an 8-6 mark there including two wins this season at the 2K College Hoops Classic.

By Staff Writers

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