Indianapolis IN – USC and Oregon tipped off in the final game of the Sweet Sixteen to determine the third Pac-12 team among the final eight teams left standing in the NCAA Tournament. USC rode a strong first half and coasted to an 82-68 win over the Ducks. The Trojans won it behind strong play and excellent shooting from guards Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White. The 6-8 White led the team in scoring with 22 points, connecting on 8-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from deep. Eaddy added 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 3-of-4 on 3s. Eugene Omoruyi gave his all for the Ducks, finishing with 28 points and 10 rebounds. He became the first Oregon player to register at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game. Chris Duarte was also effective for the Ducks with 21 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Oregon did limit the effectiveness of the Mobley brothers. Eric Mobley ended the game with 10 points on only six shots, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Isaiah Mobley added 13 points on nine shots, six rebounds, two assists and a block. Both were content to help generate good looks from outside for their teammates.
Three-point shooting was a huge factor in this game with the Trojans shooting 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) on 3s while Oregon shot only 5-of-21 (23.8 percent). Overall, USC had a 57-38 percent edge in shooting from the field. The smaller Ducks battled on the boards and actually had an 18-8 edge on offensive rebounds. The downfall for Oregon was in the ineffectiveness of starters Will Richardson, LJ Figueroa and Eric Williams Jr. The trio combined to shoot 5-of-27, including 1-of-10 from deep. Figueroa had a season-high four turnovers including stepping out of bounds twice.
Oregon fell behind midway through the second half 64-43 after Isaiah Mobley scored on a three-point play. Oregon then made a game of it, scoring 11 straight points, the last four on two lay-ins from Omoruyi. But that was as close as Oregon would get. A three-pointer from Eaddy and a thunderous Evan Mobley dunk brought the lead back to 14 points with 2:51 remaining. 6-11 freshman Franck Kepnang (8 points) came on to provide some energy and scored the final six points for Oregon but it was too little, too late.
USC took control in the first half as soon as they went into their zone. The Ducks have a limited inside game and the Trojans length caused Oregon to not get many good looks. Omoruyi (10 points) and Duarte (9 points) were Oregon’s only effective offensive players in the half. Richardson, Figueroa and Williams Jr. were a combined 3-of-17 overall and 1-of-6 on 3s. In the meantime, once again, Oregon had trouble containing Eaddy. Eaddy roasted the Ducks in the Trojans 72-54 win in their only matchup of the season. He hit six first half three-pointers to basically put the game out of reach by halftime. Tonight, Eaddy scored 12 first half points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep. White also hit 2-of-3 3s and scored 12 points as Oregon tried to bottle up the Mobley brothers inside which created some space outside for the guards. Eric Mobley was more effective in looking for open teammates than in scoring. He had four first half assists to go along with six points and five rebounds.
The Ducks took a 5-0 lead on five Omoruyi points and led 15-11 before USC turned the half around. They finished the half on a 30-11 run. They went on a 12-0 run to turn a 21-19 lead into a 33-19 lead and finished the half up 41-26. USC shot 5-of-9 on 3s and 58.6 percent overall and held Oregon to 30.3 percent shooting overall and 3-of-12 from deep.
USC (25-7) will go on the face top-seeded and undefeated Gonzaga (29-0) in the regional finals. Oregon (22-7) heads home with a regular season Pac-12 title and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. With their height limitations after the season ending injury to center N’Faly Dante, Oregon likely over performed what may have been expected. Next season will be quite different for the Ducks, as size will not be an issue with the return of the 7-0 Dante and the 6-11 Kepnang and with 6-11 Nathan Bittle, a top recruit, headed to Eugene.