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Preview: No. 15 USC, No. 4 Stanford meet in Friday night California classic

USC has struggled to string together wins, but they can turn things around with a big win over Stanford.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Oregon St. at Stanford
Kiki Iriafen is an automatic double-double for the Stanford Cardinal.
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a California classic, with No. 15 USC facing No. 4 Stanford in Maples Pavilion on Friday night at 10 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network).

USC started the season on a heater, which was one of the sport’s biggest surprises. Recently, they’ve lost three of their last four, including two games against ranked opponents in the Pac-12. Stanford has stayed in top form and won four-straight games, looking like a contender for a national title.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup and how each team can win.

How USC can win

While the Trojans were punching above their weight to begin the season, they’ve come down to earth a bit during their last stretch of games. JuJu Watkins has been stellar, but teams have forced her into high-volume shooting on low efficiency. In the previous four games, Watkins shot 37.7 percent from the field. Besides needed decision-making improvement, her teammates knocking down shots would open up the floor and get Watkins better looks at the basket.

If guards Kayla Padilla and Rayah Marshall can provide enough supplementary scoring to keep up with Stanford, USC will be in the game late with a chance to pull off the upset.

How Stanford can win

Stanford is as consistent and solid as a tree. Night in and night out, you get top performances from their nucleus. Cameron Brink is having another elite season. She looks primed to enter the WNBA draft and begin her next challenge. She’s averaging a double-double with 17.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Hanna Jump and Talana Lepolo have been stars in their roles, with Jump averaging 10.5 points and Lepolo leading the team in dimes with 4.6 assists per game.

The weaknesses of this team are hard to find or expose. No team is perfect, but, in the Pac-12, Stanford is as good as it gets. As long as they control the boards, make Watkins work for everything and keep turnovers down, they should be able to come away with another hard-fought victory in the Pac-12.

Game information

No. 15 USC Trojans (14-4, 4-4) vs. No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (19-2, 8-1)

When: Friday, Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Maples Pavilion in Stanford, CA

How to watch: Pac-12 Network