The USC Trojans(10-19, 1-15) hung tight with the Oregon Ducks(20-8, 8-8) at home for most of the game, but UO ignited a run late in the second half to solidify its fifth straight victory. With the score 61-60 and Oregon F Richard Amardi having just fouled out for the second consecutive game, the Ducks went on a 13-0 run, dominating the Trojans on both ends of the court.
In the midst of a season marred by late game meltdowns, the Ducks rose to the occasion this time around. Between 9:23 and 3:05 in the second half, USC didn’t score a single basket, turned the ball over six times and committed four fouls. On the other end, Oregon made six free throws, F Elgin Cook and F Mike Moser threw down emphatic dunks and G Joseph Young hit two three-pointers.
In fact, Moser made big plays from the get-go, starting out smoking hot from the field and never looking back. The UO forward made a three-pointer and a two-pointer with his foot on the three-point line within the first minute and a half of the game. Moser finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds to cap a strong weekend in Los Angeles, where he averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Though the Ducks made just 7-24 three-pointers, UO G Jason Calliste continued to serve as a lethal weapon beyond the arc. Calliste made all three of his three-point attempts, scored 13 points and spearheaded a 31-point performance from UO’s bench. Fellow bench compadre F Elgin Cook had his most prolific offensive performance of the Pac-12 season, finishing with 12 points.
Young was abnormally cold from the field, making just 5-15 shots and 2-9 three-pointers, but still managed to accumulate 16 points.
G Pe’Shon Howard led the way for USC, scoring 20 points on 5-11 shooting. UO guards just couldn’t stay in front of Howard, who slashed his way to the paint frequently and got to the free throw line nine times on the afternoon. Plus, he kept UO honest by hitting a couple three-pointers as well.
Oddly, USC leading scorer G Byron Wesley was benched for the opening tip. However, he still become a crucial factor in keeping USC in the game. Wesley was on fire in the middle of the second half, scoring 10 of 11 straight points for USC right before UO’s run. However, he finished the game with just 12 points.
The Trojans were able to exploit UO’s lack of size early on led by 7-foot-2 C Omar Oraby. The big man often had a six inch height advantage over his defender, usually Mike Moser or Amardi, and used his stature forcefully in the first half. However, USC didn’t feed him the ball enough for Oraby to accumulate more than eight points.
Despite being overmatched in the size department, Oregon out-rebounded USC 35-28 and grabbed five more offensive rebounds than the Trojans. Though the Ducks rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in rebounding, they outclassed the Los Angeles schools 85-66 in the last two games.
The Ducks will return home to close out the season against Arizona State on Tuesday and Arizona on Saturday. Though it is unclear whether the Ducks would make the 65 team NCAA Tournament field if the season ended today, their late season push has significantly upped their resume and credibility. However, Oregon will likely have to split this home stand against two of the Pac-12’s elite to pry their foot in the door.