The USC Trojans look for their third straight win on Monday night as they battle the Illinois Fighting Illini at the Lahaina Civic Center in the opening round of the 2012 Maui Invitational tournament. Monday night's 9 p.m. PT game will be televised by ESPN2.
USC is off to a rather rare start, as it is 2-0 for just the third time in the last dozen years. The last time the Trojans started a season 3-0 was in 2000-2001, when USC won its first eight games. This is a far cry from last season's 6-26 team, though even that team started off 4-4.
The Trojans this season are much deeper, including transfer players J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, and Omar Oraby. Terrell leads USC in scoring during the first two games at 13.5 points per game, including 17 points in a season-opening win over Coppin State. Senior point guard Jio Fontan, himself a transfer player who also missed all of last season with a torn ACL, has 11 assists for the Trojans in their first two games.
Illinois is also undefeated at 3-0, with senior guard Brandon Paul pacing the squad with 19.7 points per game. USC leads the all-time series with Illinois 6-2, though the Illini have won the last two meetings. The two schools haven't faced one another since the first round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, when the Illini beat the Trojans 90-77.
This is the second time USC has played in the Maui Invitational, as the Trojans went 1-2 in 1999. Former Trojans point guard and current Trojans radio broadcaster Brandon Granville still holds the Maui Invitational record with 15 assists against Memphis on Nov. 23, 1999.
The winner of USC vs. Illinois will battle the winner of Texas vs. Chaminade on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2. The losers of both Monday games will battle Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT, also on ESPN2.