The Oregon Ducks (17-9, 7-6) begin the Los Angeles road trip with a letdown. A late defensive miscue allowed the USC Trojans (18-9, 9-5) to escape with a 72-70 win.
For Andy Enfield, the closing seconds became another nail-biter on the USC bench. His team, like the Ducks, have been in close contests and unable to deliver wins. Chimezie Metu had a chance to put the Trojans up by four, but he missed both free throws.
After a missed attempt by MiKyle McIntosh to the basket, a scramble for the loose ball fell into the hands of Troy Brown. His bucket leveled the score at 70 with about 13 seconds left in the game.
As the seconds ticked off, Metu found himself behind the Oregon defense, delivering the dagger. The Ducks made a last-gasp heave after inbounding, but the shot rang off the backboard as the buzzer went off.
All the momentum gained from an impressive homestand against the Washington schools fell by the wayside as the Ducks fell into bad habits. Oregon appeared to have broken through earlier in conference play on finishing close games. Instead, the sense of urgency Coach Dana Altman stressed did not occur.
The Ducks spoil substantial efforts by McIntosh (23 points) and Payton Pritchard (17 Points). The play of Pritchard kept the Trojans off balance through his passing and ability to drive towards the basket.
Brown finished with 11 points while Elijah Brown made a little impact with seven points. Kenny Wooten left his game in Eugene with only two points and five rebounds.
Bennie Boatwright was dealing with an injury but managed to play 20 minutes for the Trojans. He was the difference maker in the first meeting but scored only two points at home. He re-injured himself during the game and did not return.
Jonah Mathews led the Trojans with 20 points, and Metu finished with a double-double (18 points, ten rebounds). USC shot about 52 percent from the field compared to Oregon’s 42 percent.
Oregon led 29-28 at halftime before the teams began heating up in the second half. Both sides went back and forth, matching shot-for-shot, as neither team would let one another gain a significant advantage.
In the end, the home team came out on top.
USC’s triumph completed the season sweep against Oregon. The loss puts a lot more pressure on the Ducks’ bid for the NCAA Tournament. At this point, winning the Pac-12 Tournament appears to be the only option to gain entry.
For now, the Ducks need to regroup and manage to salvage a split against the Los Angeles schools. The UCLA Bruins will be up next on Saturday. Tipoff begins at 7:15 p.m. PST with a telecast on ESPN.