Eugene, OR – Oregon took control of the game early and coasted to a 78-60 win over USC at Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday night in from of a crowd of 7,005. The Ducks were led by center N’Faly Dante’s 17 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots. Point guard Will Richardson added 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists. Boogie Ellis led the Trojans with 19 points, connecting on 3-of-7 from deep.
This was one of Oregon’s better efforts of the season. They played with energy on both ends of the court and shot and rebounded well. The Ducks went on a 13-0 run in the first half that was part of an 18-1 run that helped them take a 15-point lead (42-27) into halftime. Jermaine Couisnard was the catalyst for the surge as he scored 11 of his 13 points during the first half.
Oregon didn’t let USC get close in the second half. The closest the Trojans got within was 14 points while Oregon extended their lead to 20 points late in the game. The Ducks were efficient in all areas as they shot 54 percent from the field. They went 6-of-18 on 3’s, cooling off a bit after shooting 5-of-10 in the first half. They outrebounded USC by seven, had 18 assists on 28 made baskets and enjoyed a 38-28 edge in points in the paint.
Oregon has been shooting somewhat better as of late, although they are still ranked only 301st in the country in three-point shooting percentage. Tonight, they made 16-of-18 free throws, one of their better efforts from the charity stripe on the season. Interestingly, Oregon’s opponents are shooting 78 percent from the foul line, a higher opponent percentage than all but two Division 1 teams. If that bad luck reverts to the mean, the Ducks may have some better luck in close games moving forward.
Oregon played a tight eight-man rotation in this game with Kel’el Ware backing up Dante, Quincy Guerrier subbing for Nate Bittle and Keeshawn Barthelemy playing as the third guard. All played effectively. Ware played with energy and had back-to-back dunks on passes from Richardson. He scored eight points and added three boards in 12 minutes. Guerrier rebounded effectively with six, tied for the team lead, over 18 minutes. Barthelemy added eight points and four assists against only one turnover over 26 minutes. Bittle played well also, with 11 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
Oregon (15-10, 9-5) is now on the NCAA Tournament bubble and will have their best chance to help their tournament resume if the can defeat No. 7-rated UCLA on Saturday night. A win against the Bruins would put them in the mix for a tournament bid.