Work, progress for Lewis

Klein is a Times staff writer.

Before the season, Coach Tim Floyd was quick to point out that no USC player had improved more than guard Dwight Lewis.

The junior from Louisiana worked as hard in the weight room as he did on the court to ready himself for an increased scoring and leadership role.

The preparation has paid off.

The 6-foot-5 Lewis is averaging a team-best 17.6 points a game for the Trojans, who resume their schedule tonight against Pepperdine at the Galen Center.


Lewis, however, is quick to deflect attention. His early success, he said, can be attributed to opponents’ concentrating on stopping forward Taj Gibson. But he allows that his off-season regimen is producing results.

“I worked all during the summer to get my shot quicker and more efficient,” Lewis said. “It feels good every time the ball leaves my hand.”

Lewis got extra time to hone his shot during the last 10 days. USC (5-3) has not played since its 73-72 defeat at then-No. 6 Oklahoma on Dec. 4.

Lewis scored 25 points against the Sooners after scoring a career-high 26 in a victory over San Francisco a few days before.

“Everybody wants to get going and get their rhythm of feeling confident in every shot they take -- that’s where Dwight’s at,” freshman forward DeMar DeRozan said.

Despite the loss, Lewis described the Oklahoma game as “a great confidence boost,” for himself and for the Trojans. USC played hard throughout the game at Norman, Okla., and avoided the kind of second-half collapse that cost them in early-season losses to Seton Hall and Missouri in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.


Floyd also was encouraged.

“Had we made four or five plays, it would have been a different outcome,” the coach said. “It gives us confidence because they were as good as anyone we’ll see.”

Tonight, the Trojans will play a struggling Pepperdine team that is 1-8 and has not won since defeating Cal State Monterey Bay in its opener.

Coach Tom Asbury, in the first season of his second stint with the Waves, has seen his team lose seven in a row, including a 73-55 defeat by Pacific on Saturday.

Asbury was 125-59 at Pepperdine from 1989-94 before moving to Kansas State. He was an assistant at Alabama from 2004-07, returning to Malibu to take over a program that finished 11-21 last season.



USC tonight


Time: 7:30.

On the air: Radio: 710.

Where: Galen Center.

Records: USC 5-3, Pepperdine 1-8.

Update: The Trojans, who begin a four-game homestand, are playing for the first time since their 73-72 loss at Oklahoma on Dec. 4. Guard Dwight Lewis is averaging 17.6 points a game and forward Taj Gibson is averaging 15.3 points, 11 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots. Pepperdine has lost eight games in a row, including a 73-55 defeat by Pacific on Saturday. Keion Bell, a freshman guard who played at Pasadena High, is averaging 11.8 points a game, sophomore forward Mychel Thompson 9.4.

-- Gary Klein