Preparing for UCLA

On the horizon for USC this week is a Valentine's Day date with rival UCLA Sunday night at the Galen Center.

And never mind that UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt told the Los Angeles Times this week that the Bruins were "going to try to show that we can play with them," because the Trojans don't agree with his sentiment.

They are not the favorites, they say.

"We certainly know we're not going to win by 20 points — if we win," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said after his team's brief practice Wednesday. "It's going to be a down-to-the-wire game. They're playing a lot better since the first time we played them."

And O'Neill doesn't need reminding USC has never beaten UCLA at home since the Galen Center opened in 2006.

"That's one of our goals," O'Neill said.

The consensus in practice — from players and coaches alike — was that USC's 67-46 over the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion last month was an anomaly.

"They are a good team," guard Dwight Lewis said. "We just caught them out on a bad night, and we know they're going to come out here and try to give us a good whupping Sunday night."

Lewis said the crowd would be a factor. The Trojans haven't sold out a home game this season, and while tickets are still available for the 7 p.m. contest, it's expected to be a near sellout.

"It gets you motivated," he said. "You play harder, play off the crowd."

O'Neill agreed.

"This game will be decided by who has the most energy for a long period of time," he said.

Notes: Lewis, guard Marcus Simmons and forward Leonard Washingtonare all New Orleans Saints fans, from the state of Louisiana. O'Neill predicted after his news conference Saturday the Colts would win. The first-year coach said he has taken a lot of heat for the pick since. ... The men's game isn't the only USC-UCLA battle this weekend. The women are matching up Sunday at 11 a.m., and after USC coach Michael Cooper's comments the last timethe schools played, the rivalry has been turned up a notch. ... USC women's golf also beat UCLA in the Northrop Grumman Invitational, held in Palos Verdes, that finished today. The Women of Troy outshot the top-ranked Bruins by 21 strokes.