Oregon knew going into Wednesday night's game with USC that they were going to have to take care of a lot of business on the road in order to keep their NCAA Tournament chances alive. While it certainly wasn't pretty, the Ducks took care of the first game of the five-road-dates-in-seven-games finish, defeating the Trojans at the Galen Center, 80-75, behind 26 points by Joseph Young.
Oregon got off to a hot start, grabbing an early 15-4 lead at the 13:08 mark. It wasn't exactly that Oregon's defense was great. They allowed consistent penetration, but the Trojans began the game shooting only 1-9 in the paint. This game was a lot of Joseph Young, making SC pay for defensive mistakes such as this poor hedge:
The highlight of the first half was, of course, Bill Walton on the call. And while he wasn't in the rare form that he was in last week at Matthew Knight Arena, who continues to refer to Dwayne Benjamin as 'Snoop Dogg':
The problem, of course, was that Oregon didn't extend that lead any further. There was a regression to the mean, in that the Trojans started hitting those inside shots, and the Duck lead slowly whittled away. After the hot start, the team seemed to go on cruise control, figuring that against the last place team in the conference, they had it wrapped up. They took an eight point lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half started off very poorly for Oregon, as they didn't show up on either side of the ball. USC started off the half on a 12-4 run to tie up the game at the 17:14 mark, prompting an angry Dana Altman timeout. The response for Oregon? Feed Joseph Young. The senior had nine of Oregon's 13 points on a 13-4 run that put the Ducks up nine and restored normalcy to the game. Elgin Cook had one of the prettier baskets on that run:
It would have seemed that this should have put the lowly Trojans away, and Oregon still held a seven-point lead with two minutes to go. But Oregon put on the old prevent offense, aiming to kill clock rather than score points. That led to three straight Oregon turnovers. SC capitalized on the first two, and had the ball down three with a chance to tie. But the Trojans had what Walton called "one of the five worst possessions in the history of USC basketball," with Khalil Dukes bricking a contested three pointer, allowing the Ducks to sink free throws to seal the win.
Young scored 26 to go along with five rebounds. Elgin Cook had 15 points with seven rebounds and six assists. Dillon Brooks also scored 15, while Jordan Bell came off suspension to score eight points. Julian Jacobs scored 18 for USC.
It wasn't easy, but the win puts Oregon alone at third place in the Pac-12, and keeps their tournament hopes alive. Now Oregon must head across Los Angeles to Pauley Pavilion and face the UCLA Bruins on Saturday.