Eugene, OR – The Oregon Ducks looked to keep their NCAA tourney hopes alive as they hosted the USC Trojans Saturday night at Matthew Knight Arena. As the season is winding down, USC is looking to solidify higher seed in the tourney to better position themselves for a run in March. Oregon thought they had pulled off the upset, when Quincy Guerrier knocked down a huge 3-pointer to give the Ducks a two-point lead with 22 seconds remaining. However, on the next possession, the Trojans Drew Peterson nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer to give USC a 70-69 victory in front of 10,021 fans. USC and Oregon split the season series and could potentially matchup again in the Pac-12 Tournament in March.
It was evident from the beginning that Peterson was going to have a solid game. He scored the first four points of the game for USC and then found Boogie Ellis in transition for a triple. He was aggressive early and often for the Trojans. At 6-9, he has the offensive tools to put the ball on the floor to create for himself, making it difficult for the smaller Oregon guards to effectively challenge his shots. He often was able to back down his defender to his spots in, and around the paint, before rising for a fadeaway jumper. He was the most efficient scorer on either squad, going 9-for-17 from the field to score a game high 20 points. He added eight rebounds and two assists. Teammate Boogie Ellis scored eight points on 3-for-10 from the floor but was held scoreless in the second half.
In the latter stages of the first half, USC increased the lead to 31-19, as they went on a 14-2 run, that was capped off by a 3-pointer by Reese Dixon-Waters who made a nice contribution off the bench. He hit two first half 3-pointers and tallied eight points (3-for-7 FG) in all. The Trojans as a group shot the ball effectively, making 8-of-16 from distance compared to Oregon’s 6-of-23 on 3-point attempts.
Oregon’s offense could not find the mark shooting the ball in the opening half. As a team the Ducks shot 34.2 percent on field goals and went a dismal 2-for-11 from distance. In spite of the poor shooting, Oregon managed to string a run together at the end of the half. They outscored the Trojans 13-0 in the final 4 minutes and 39 seconds to go into the half, up 32-31. Guerrier’s 9 point and six rebound production paced the Ducks in the opening half. He is relentless pursuing the ball on missed shots and was ready to catch and shoot from distance, including hitting the big 3-point late in the game. Playing the four spot and some five late in the game, Guerrier scored a team-high 15 points (5-for-11 FG) and pulled down 10 rebounds to record a double-double.
In the second half USC got Isaiah Mobley in the action. The 6-10 junior has a rangy skill-set even though lacks the athleticism. He found different ways to score, whether in the post using a jump hook, knocking down 3s, or pursuing the offensive glass and quickly putting the ball back in. He scored 17 points (all in the second half) on 5-for-8 from the field and was efficient from the strike by making 5-of-6 free throws. He also had nine rebounds and one block. He will get some looks at the next level, as his brother Evan Mobley a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers is the leading candidate for rookie of the year honors.
Throughout the second half, the scoring and lead changes continued with seven ties and nineteen lead changes in all. Oregon’s N’Faly Dante had a strong showing with 12 points (4-for-6 FG) and nine rebounds in 24 minutes of action. His activity seemed to warrant more playing time in the final ten minutes of the game, but Coach Altman went with a small ball lineup. The Ducks Jacob Young pieced together a productive second half performance, seeking opportunities to get downhill past the defense for lay-ins plus shot the ball well from the perimeter. He shot 2-for-3 from downtown with splashing in a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with the clock winding down to give Oregon a 64-61 lead with three minutes remaining. Young, a senior playing in his last home game had 11 points (4-for-11 FG), three rebounds and two assists. Oregon ultimately could not hold the lead down the stretch and failed to convert on two attempts around the basket in the final 10 seconds as USC came out victorious.
Oregon (18-11, 11-7) heads up to play Washington (14-13, 9-8) on March 3rd with only two games remaining in the regular season. USC (25-4, 14-4) takes on Arizona (25-3, 15-2) in a matchup of Top-25 teams this Tuesday.