But it was USC that made key free throws and got defensive stops to defeat Oregon 75-70. It also the Trojans first win over the Ducks in 15 tries.
Bennie Boatright killed Oregon from the outside with 18 points and Chimezie Metu killed the Ducks from the inside with an equal 18 points.
The Trojans were struggling at the free throw line for the entire night, but in the last two minutes, USC made seven straight charity shots to seal the deal.
With the loss, Oregon falls to 12-7 overall and just 2-4 in conference play. USC on the other hand, improved to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in Pac-12 action.
The Ducks showed their youth and inexperience in the last three minutes of the game. They were ahead 68-65 with 2:52 left. Oregon would score just one more bucket after that.
It would be a silly foul, a bad shot, or an unforced turnover that plagued the Ducks in the waning minutes of the game, again, something the Oregon faithful is just not used to seeing from Dana Altman’s team. The Duck coach is still in search of his 200th win at Oregon and with UCLA coming into Eugene on Saturday, Altman may have to wait a bit longer.
Payton Pritchard led the Ducks with 18 points and seven assists. The sophomore point guard had a decent look at a three with 20 seconds left to tie the game, but Metu’s long arms forced Pritchard to adjust his shot that was wide left.
Paul White came off the bench to score 14 and Troy Brown added 12. Mikyle MacIntosh managed a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The first half featured a 14-0 USC run and the Trojans eventually built up an early 19-9 lead. Elijah Brown hit a three-pointer to snap the USC run and Oregon slowly inched closer as the half went along.
Oregon managed to get hot from the field after a slow start. The Ducks managed to hit 50 percent of their shots from the field on 13-of-26 shooting. USC was just the opposite, started off hot and then cooled down as halftime approached. The Trojans were a perfect 7-of-7 during that big early run, but finished the half 15-of-34 (44 percent).
The loss further damages Oregon’s hope of a return to the NCAA tournament. The Ducks would have to catch fire in the second half of the conference season and play well in the Pac-12 tourney. But so far, Oregon hasn’t shown any signs any of those things will occur.
~ Don Smalley