The Oregon Ducks (15-6, 3-6) broke the Matthew Knight Arena record for most steals in a game in their 78-66 victory over the USC Trojans (10-12, 1-8) on Phil Knight’s birthday. The Ducks were out-shot 49 percent to 40 percent and out-rebounded 35-31, but turnovers tipped the scale heavily in favor of Oregon.
The Ducks forced 22 turnovers and only committed six all evening. 16 of those USC turnovers were UO steals and six of those steals were pulled off by G Joseph Young. The 16 steals were one short of the Ducks all-time record and Young’s six steals were one short of the UO individual record for most steals in a game.
“We felt like if we put pressure on them, they would turn the ball over. Everybody was there for each other and when a player was down, we picked each other up,” Young said.
However, the Ducks came out with little energy and mostly treaded water with USC in the first half. Plus, USC’s guard arsenal consisting of top three scorers J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley and Pe’Shon Howard combined to score 29 of USC’s 38 first half points.
On the other end, outside of Young, no Duck was able to find a rhythm in half one.
“We were just stuck in the mud.” “At halftime I just talked about energy,” head coach Dana Altman said.
After a pep talk from Altman and a change of strategy, Oregon played with much greater intensity and effort after the break.
Case and point was a steal out of a trap and an emphatic dunk by F Mike Moser, which awoke a crowd that didn’t have much to cheer about in the first half. Afterward, for at least a five minute stretch, Ducks fans at Matthew Knight Arena really added to the energy that the players were exerting on the court.
“The crowd has not let us down. At times we’ve let the crowd down,” Altman said.
Oregon extended its defense full court for the entire second half and were able to force a ton of questionable USC passes and remove the Trojans from their comfort zone. So much so that USC accumulated 13 turnovers and only scored 28 points in the second half.
“We got on the floor, got some loose balls and ran the floor.” We didn’t shoot the ball really well but the defense and the press creating points off turnovers was the difference in the game,” Altman said.
Though Oregon outscored USC 44-28 in the second half, it could have been much, much worse for USC. The Ducks shot just 3-13 form beyond the arc, even though almost every attempt was a wide-open shot. Young especially, who shot 1-5 from three in half two, easily could’ve widened the margin of victory significantly had he made shots that he normally knocks down.
“I thought we had a number of opportunities where we had really good look,” Altman said.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Altman added.
But one player who did shoot well, and broke out of a four game slump, was Moser. Out of a designed fake screen and curl for Dotson, the big man quickly flashed to the three-point line and knocked down a three-pointer. After failing to contribute against UCLA, Moser scored 13 points on 6-10 shooting and had six rebounds and four assists.
Though Young didn’t shoot the ball well, he still put forth an impressive performance. Along with his six steals, Young had 21 points and made 9-9 free throws.
“He(Young) just shoots so many more free throws than the rest of the guys because he gets to the rim more. I’d like to see Dot(G Damyean Dotson) get to the rim like that and get to the free throw line,” Altman said.
G Jason Calliste, who may want to consider the nickname Mr. Consistency, added 18 points, five rebounds and two steals.
“Calliste is a fine young man. He’s done a great job. He’s all about the team. He has represented Oregon basketball really well,” Altman said.
Throughout the night, a ton of Ducks students and employees showed support for Knight including ASUO president Sam Dotters-Katz and QB Marcus Mariota.
However, although Altman showed appreciation for Knight, he isn’t the biggest fan of bobbleheads.
“I didn’t see the bobblehead. I hope it looks good for him. That’s kind of a silly promotion, but it worked. It got people here,” he said.
“Make sure the team doesn’t get any so we don’t sell any on eBay,” Altman added jokingly.
The Ducks will go on the road to face the No. 1 ranked Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night, but Altman doesn’t want his team to think about that game quite yet.
“I told those guys don’t look ahead, don’t look behind. Tomorrow, enjoy the Super Bowl, take some time off,” Altman said.
This will be the first Sunday in six weeks that the team won’t have a game to play.
“Those guys need a break,” Altman added.
PHOTOS BY KEVIN CLINE – FISHDUCK.COM