Los Angeles, CA – The Oregon Ducks squared off against the No. 19-ranked USC Trojans Monday night at the Galen Center with both teams vying for the regular season conference title. From start to finish, the Trojans were in control, led by Tahj Eaddy’s game high 24 points. USC held the Ducks to their lowest scoring output of the season to run away with a 72-58 victory. The win puts the Trojans a half game ahead of the UCLA Bruins for sole possession of first place with two weeks remaining in the season. USC has now won 13 out of their last 15 games and are looking to improve on their overall seed for the NCAA Tournament in March.
The Trojans started the game on a mission by jumping out to an early 17-1 lead behind Eaddy. Eaddy scored the first nine points of the game by nailing three consecutive 3-pointers. The 6-2 point guard was in the zone scoring 21 (7-for-10 FG) first half points on 5-for-7 shooting from downtown. Most of his damage was done during USC’s first-half explosion that gave them a 43-22 halftime lead. Overall, Eaddy went 6-for-11 from the perimeter (8-of-14 overall), grabbed four rebounds, and had two assists.
For Oregon, they were battling the length and size of the Trojans who are ranked first in the conference in holding their opponent’s field goal shooting to around 38 percent. The Ducks did not convert a field goal until eight minutes into the game. After they missed their first 12 attempts, true freshman Franck Kepnang got position in the post and elevated for a nice jump hook, cutting their deficit to 17-3. Kepnang is a recent addition to the team after reclassifying to the 2020 class, bringing a toughness and energy on the defensive side of the ball.
While Oregon struggled shooting, it was quite the opposite for USC. As collective group, the Trojans shot a sharp 65 percent, including 7-for-11 from beyond the arc. Drew Pederson was a major factor in scoring, rebounding, and setting up teammates for easy scoring opportunities. With 3:44 remaining, he helped give the Trojans a 36-16 advantage after he pulled down the rebound and went coast-to-coast, acting as if he was going to rise up for the lay-in. Instead, he dumped off a nice look pass to the 7-foot Evan Mobley for a lay-in. At 6-8, Pederson recorded a double-double with 15 points (6-for-12 FG) and 11 rebounds. He also had two assists and two steals.
Evan Mobley, a potential Top-3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, displayed his high skill level playing both inside and out. His 11 points on for 5-7 shooting, while collecting five rebounds, may seem as if he underperformed, but he was the primary focus for Oregon’s defense as they double-teamed him every time he caught the ball in the post. Only a freshman, he was poised to make smart decisions by quickly getting the ball out of his hands and spotting open teammates. At times, Mobley became a secondary ball handler, showing he can handle dribbling the ball up the court in the press or pushing the ball with a pass to the frontcourt. His impact is even more evident on the court than on stat sheets. Nonetheless, he leads the conference in field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks per game.
Oregon played a much more competitive second half by shrinking the lead to 12 with back-to-back 3-pointers by LJ Figueroa and Eric Williams Jr. with 6:17 remaining in the game. Moments later, Williams Jr. made a strong move to the basket followed by an up and under move making the lay-in. Oregon only trailed by 10, but the Trojans always had an answer to stop any major run. This time it was Max Agbonkpolo swooshing a 3-pointer from the wing to stretch the lead to 69-56 with 3:16 left in the contest, thus, sealing the win for USC. Figueroa shot 4-for-6 from the 3-point line to tally 14 points (5-for-11 FG), while Williams Jr. came off the bench to finish with 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the field and added a team-high nine rebounds.
For the game, the Trojans held Oregon’s top two scorers Chris Duarte (17.1 PPG) and Eugene Omoruyi (17.2 PPG) well under their season average to 11 points and 9 points respectively. Furthermore, they dominated the glass, 15-9 on the offensive end, and 39-26 overall. Oregon did manage to outscore USC 36-29 in the second half and picked up the defense by pressuring the Trojans into shooting 34 percent in the half. The Ducks will look to carry that second half momentum down the final stretch of the season and to remain in contention for the Pac-12 regular season title.
Oregon (14-5, 9-4) will head to the Bay Area to take on Stanford (14-9, 10-7) this Thursday with a chance to sweep the Cardinal. USC (19-4, 13-3) will look to remain in first place when they go on the road to face Colorado (17-7, 11-6).