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Bison to take on USC

FARGO -- Last year, it was two-time defending national champion Florida. This year, it will be the University of Southern California. The Trojans, an NCAA-tournament qualifying team last March, will be the marquee nonconference game for North Dak...

FARGO -- Last year, it was two-time defending national champion Florida. This year, it will be the University of Southern California.

The Trojans, an NCAA-tournament qualifying team last March, will be the marquee nonconference game for North Dakota State's men's basketball team next season.

"This will probably be the biggest splash game that we will play," said Bison head coach Saul Phillips, who Thursday confirmed reports that his team will play at USC sometime in December.

The matchup will be a single-game guarantee for NDSU -- unlike its game at Florida last year, which was part of the five-team Blue Ribbon Challenge that was played over two weeks.

Phillips declined to offer details about the game contract with USC. Last year, NDSU was guaranteed $40,000 each to play at Minnesota and the University of California Golden Bear Classic. The Bison were guaranteed $70,000 to play in the Blue Ribbon Challenge -- most of which was used to cover travel expenses.

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"USC is the type of team that will be fun to go up against," Phillips said. "Its athletic department is as solid as anybody's in the country."

Known for playing in two national football championship games since 2005, USC has been making a name for itself on the basketball court, too.

Under head coach Tim Floyd, the Trojans' 63 wins in the last three seasons are the most in a three-year stretch in USC history. Two years ago, USC reached the Sweet 16.

This past season -- with no seniors on the roster -- USC had a 21-12 record and earned a No. 6 seed for the NCAA tournament. The Trojans lost to No. 11 seed Kansas State in the tournament opener.

The Bison will not have to prepare for O.J. Mayo -- USC's leading scorer who declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. As a freshman, Mayo led the Trojans in scoring average (20.7), steals (51), 3-pointers (88) and assists (109).

In addition to USC, NDSU will also play a Nov. 29 game at Minnesota and in a Dec. 12-13 tournament at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. UND is scheduled to play in that tournament in 2009.

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