Hello Seattle

USC coach Kevin O'Neill's squad departed for Seattle, Wash. this afternoon — but not before a quick practice to prepare to face the Washington Huskies, a team the Trojans beat 87-61 last month at the Galen Center.

Here's the thing, though: Washington's improved. The Huskies beat Stanford on the road last weekend, using what O'Neill called their "best half of the season" to secure the victory.

Forward Quincy Pondexter, who was held to a season-low two points at the Galen Center, hasn't scored fewer than 17 points in a game since. Guard Isaiah Thomas, who shot just 3-of-10 last time, averaged 22 points last weekend. And reserve guard Venoy Overton, who was the Huskies' leading scorer with 18 points against USC, has three double-figure games in the six since.

As for USC, the Trojans swept Cal, Stanford and UCLA on a three-game homestand. None were blowouts; all were close fights the Trojans managed to pull out — something they failed to do earlier in Pac-10 conference play. And O'Neill saw something out of his team that he says he appreciates.

“Those were three must-wins we had to have,” O’Neill said. “And we got them, from a variety of sources."

A variety of sources indeed. Against UCLA, guard Dwight Lewis had a marquee game and guard Donte Smith stepped up off the bench. Against Stanford, forward Nikola Vucevic and point guard Mike Gerrity were the only two Trojans in double figures. Against Cal, seven of the eight USC players who logged minutes scored between six and 13 points — the epitome of a balanced scoring attack.

Essentially, as O'Neill said, "Every one of those games saw different guys do different things."

But the Huskies will be more prepared for the Trojans this time around, O'Neill maintains.

"Every bit," he said. "And, they play much better at home then they do on the road."

Notes: In other athletic news, USCfootball.com reports that Lane Kiffin is "close" to hiring a new assistant, Arkansas State's Clay Helton. Helton was an assistant at Memphis for 10 years before taking the offensive coordinator spot at Arkansas State this offseason ... The USC official site reports that praise rolls in for new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus, officially hired earlier this month. Around the coaching world, Ausmus has been known to command a significant presence in the weight room ... USC will appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee beginning on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. The Orange County Register reports former coach Pete Carroll will be in attendance.