(Sports Network) - In a battle at the MassMutual Center, the USC Trojans will collide with the New Mexico State Aggies as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. The Trojans have won four of the five meetings against New Mexico State, and that includes a 73-60 decision back in 2008. This event has not been kind to the Trojans, who have lost both of their matchups in this tournament. After opening the year with two wins, USC was crushed by Rider, 77-57, and followed that loss with a 64-63 setback to Bradley.
The Aggies' season has played out very similar to USC's, as New Mexico State began its year with two wins, only to fall into a two-game slide directly afterwards. The most recent setback was a 71-57 loss to UMass, and that loss came two days after Arizona crushed the Aggies, 83-57, in Tucson. After this matchup NMSU will head to El Paso to battle UTEP.
The Trojans jumped out to an early lead against Bradley on Saturday, but the offense ran cold down the stretch, allowing the Braves to fight back, and eventually win the game in the final seconds. A big reason for the poor showing was due to the ineffectiveness of Maurice Jones. Jones entered the game as the team's top scoring threat, but that changed after the guard missed all 10 of his shots, finishing the game scoreless. Because of that miserable outing, Nikola Vucevic now leads the team and comes into this contest averaging a double-double of 18.0 ppg and 10.5 rpg. Against Bradley the forward tallied 22 points, to go along with 10 boards and five assists. Bryce Jones, who is netting 11.7 ppg, contributed 13 points, while Donte Smith and Garrett Jackson chipped in 12 points apiece off the bench.
The Aggies scored over 90 points in their first two games of the season, but since then the team has fallen into a deep funk offensively, netting 57 points in its last two losses to Arizona and UMass. In the 14-point setback to the Minutemen, New Mexico State shot a woeful 33.3 percent from the floor and made just 3-of-12 three-point attempts. Troy Gillenwater was clearly not at his best, netting just 4-of-15 shots, but the forward still finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Gillenwater has been the top option for NMSU this season and comes into this matchup netting 22.3 ppg, while collecting 7.3 rpg. Hamidu Rahman tallied 10 points in the loss, while Hernst Laroche was limited to just eight points. Despite the poor showing however, Laroche is still second on the team with 12.0 ppg.
Both teams are stuck in a slump offensively, so it will be interesting to see what team is able to wake up and bounce back into the win column. USC should get the nod in this matchup, because it is unlikely Jones will be held scoreless again.
FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,283) -- Springfield, Massachusetts. Television: FCS. Home Record: USC 2-1, NMSU 1-0. Away Record: USC 0-0, NMSU 1-1. Neutral Record: USC 0-1, NMSU 0-1. Conference Record: USC 0-0, NMSU 0-0. Series Record: USC leads, 4-1.