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N. Rakocevic

USC's Nick Rakocevic, right, guarding former Oregon State player Drew Eubanks in a December 2016 game, and the Trojans play the Beavers on Thursday night at Gill Coliseum. Rakocevic averaged 25 points and nine rebounds in home wins against California and Stanford and was named the Pac-12's player of the week.  

USC goes for its first 3-0 conference start since 2002 Thursday night when it visits Gill Coliseum for a Pac-12 men’s basketball game with Oregon State.

The Trojans (9-6, 2-0) are coming off a home weekend sweep of California (82-73) and Stanford (77-66) led by the efforts of junior forward Nick Rakocevic. The 6-foot-11 junior forward averaged 25 points and nine rebounds while shooting 69.7 percent from the floor in the two games on his way to being named the conference’s player of the week.

The Trojans have won four straight games (Southern Utah, UC Davis, Cal, Stanford) after losing four in a row (Nevada, TCU, Oklahoma, Santa Clara) by a combined 68 points and all by double digits.

In the four recent contests, USC is averaging 80.1 points and shooting 52.1 percent from the floor while holding opponents to 60.8 points and 41.4 percent shooting.

Rakocevic is averaging 15.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, with three of his 20-point games in the last three contests.

Senior forward Bennie Boatwright averaged 15.8 points and 6.1 rebounds and Jonah Mathews 12.1 points. Junior guard Derryck Thornton, in his second season at USC after transferring from Duke, is averaging 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds.

“They’re good. They’ve had some injuries as well, but they still have a lot of experience and talent,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said of the Trojans. “They’re really balanced scoring-wise, inside and out. They’re mixing up their defenses more than ever. It’s going to be a really test for sure Thursday night.”

USC lost three of its top four scorers off a 2017-18 team that went 24-12 (12-6 Pac-12) and played in the NIT. Boatwright, Mathews and Rakocevic are all returning starters.

USC has won six straight games against Oregon State — including three last season — and leads the all-time series 74-64. The Beavers won 10 of 13 against the Trojans before USC's recent win streak.

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Sports Reporter