After splitting games against the Arizona schools, the Oregon Ducks (12-6, 2-3) begin a vital homestand on Thursday with the USC Trojans (13-6, 4-2) up first.
Oregon is trending upward after nearly coming away with two-straight wins over ranked opponents. The road trip got off to a great start with an upset victory over Arizona State in front of a sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Center.
The Ducks battled throughout the contest against the Wildcats, but Arizona made a late run to come away victorious. Overall, both games showed a gritty Oregon team who refused to back down under no circumstances.
January is when the Ducks’ play some of their basketball as conference play gets into full swing. Coach Dana Altman hopes the sting of a close loss of Arizona fuels a strong start Thursday night when USC visits Matthew Knight Arena.
Payton Pritchard and Elijah Brown rose to the occasion against the Arizona schools after poor starts in Pac-12 play. Both appeared to have settled in and could lead the team in offense against the Los Angeles schools at home.
USC is coming off back-to-back wins over Colorado and Utah at home. Before the gains, USC was coming off a stunning loss on the road to Stanford.
Before the season, the Trojans appeared to be one of the favorites for the conference crown with the players returning from last season.
But the FBI probe into college basketball sent shockwaves throughout with USC being one of the schools facing accusations. As a result, De’Anthony Melton has been ruled out to play this season for reasons about his eligibility.
For now, Melton’s teammates are rallying behind him and hope the matter comes to resolve shortly.
Chimezie Metu is the leading scorer on USC, averaging nearly 17 points per game and is also the leading rebounder. Metu can play defense well with 32 blocks this season.
Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart provide scoring assistance behind Metu and could pose problems for the Ducks. Oregon’s defense did a decent job shutting down the up-tempo offense of Arizona State and keeping Arizona from running away with the game.
Oregon took both meetings last season against USC. Last time in Eugene, the Ducks handed the Trojans their first loss of the season. USC got outplayed from the start as Oregon kept the visitors off-balanced.
Tipoff begins at 6:00 p.m. with a telecast on ESPN2.