After suffering a close loss to UCLA on Thursday, Oregon entered Saturday’s contest versus USC desperately needing a victory. The Ducks used a big second-half run on Phil Knight’s 76th birthday to beat USC 78-66.
“We wanted to make a change today and get back on track,” said junior guard Joseph Young. “We came out with intensity on the defensive end and that’s what made the game.”
In a back-and-forth first half, USC took a 38-34 lead at the break. The Ducks implemented a full-court press to open the second half that resulted in a 22-6 run. They recorded 16 steals, including six from Young, which were both Matthew Knight Arena records.
“At halftime I just talked about energy. I said we’ve just got to play with more energy,” said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. “We were getting pounded on the boards at that time. I thought the energy in the second half was much better.”
Young led all scorers with 21 points on 5-of-12 shooting and a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line. He continues his scoring surge after dropping 25 against UCLA on Thursday. The transfer from Houston can knock down the three, but does a good job attacking the basket when his jumper isn’t falling.
Jason Calliste added 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and a 3-of-9 showing from behind the arc. The tandem of Young and Calliste are providing the majority of Oregon’s offense as of late. Mike Moser was the only other Duck in double-figures with 13 points. He’s only two points shy of reaching the 1,000-point career milestone.
For USC, junior Byron Wesley had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He did a good job attacking the rim and converting from mid-range, but will need to add a three-point jumper for the next level.
7-foot-2 center Omar Oraby showed some upside with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting along with five rebounds. The Egyptian big man has plenty of length that helps him block or alter shots, but lacks bulk that could help him keep opposing big men out of the paint. He has good footwork, athletic ability, and touch that should draw some professional intrigue. Senior guards J.T. Terrell (15 points) and Pe’Shon Howard (eight points) were also solid.
Going forward, the Trojans have some pieces in a pair of freshman. Point guard Julian Jacobs logged 29 minutes where he had five points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Nikola Jovanovic, a 6-foot-10 Serbian big man, only had two points, but provides size and stretched the floor with a jumper. The duo should be key pieces going forward.
ESPN currently ranks USC’s 2014 class as the 25th best in the nation led by four-star point guard Jordan McLaughlin and will also have UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt eligible to play next season. With a nice recruiting class to go with two returning starters, the Trojans may be Pac-12 contenders in a few years.
The Ducks got a much-needed win to improve to 15-6 on the year and 3-6 in Pac-12 play. They’ll have their biggest game of the year at Arizona on Thursday, who just lost its first game of the season to Cal. After a disappointing start to league play, Oregon will need a marquee win to help its tournament resume, but Calliste isn’t worried.
“We’ll be alright,” Calliste said of the upcoming challenge. “If we play like we did today we’ll be fine.”
Cameron Schott is a Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.