The Ducks took the court with championship applications on the line against 19th ranked USC on Monday night. Both teams are in the running to take the Division crown, making this as crucial of a game as Oregon will play this year. The Ducks come in as the hottest team in the Pac, currently on a five game winning streak, their latest a nail-biter against Utah. USC, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Arizona and wanting to maintain their standing as top in the Pac-12.
The first half got off to a rough start for the Ducks as the Trojans got off to a 9-0 start on the back of a couple Tahj Eaddy threes. Oregon tried to match three for three, but was unsuccessful in converting, and the Trojans were feeling it early. The Trojans extended their lead to 13-0 forcing Dana Altman to burn a timeout. The struggles continued to mount for the Ducks, as they couldn’t make a shot, they seemed totally discombobulated and couldn’t get anything going on both ends of the floor. Frank Kepnang was finally able to break the drought with the Duck’s first made basket, but by that point they were down 17-3.
The Ducks continued to struggle, but showed no signs of giving up. They started to settle down on defense, staying active and using their length to pester the Trojans. Their woes continued on the offensive end however, as they were missing shots from all areas of the floor. It took 15 minutes, but the Ducks finally hit double figures on the scoreboard, although they were down 30-13. Tahj Eaddy continued to give the Ducks fits, as his hot start continued with 21 first half points. He seemingly couldn’t miss and Oregon had no answer to him or the rest of this USC team. At the half, the Ducks were down 43-22.
Oregon finally got some momentum in the second half, as a 7-0 run forced USC to burn a timeout. The Ducks continued to find some offensive success, but were having trouble keeping USC out of the paint. They don’t have anyone big enough to hang with USC’s star frosh Evan Mobley for long and he was finding opportunities just by way of his height and athleticism. Halfway through the quarter, the Trojans were still in control, 57-37. Sustained play on either end of the floor continued to elude the Ducks, yet they still showed the spirit of a team that refused to surrender.
With just around six minutes to go, Oregon hit a quick run that pulled the score to 63-51, the closest they’d been all game. The Ducks were forcing turnovers and hitting threes and were determined to climb out of the hole they’d spent the game in. They were able to pull the lead down to 10, but a small run put the Trojans back up by 14. Despite the burst of energy the Ducks had, they ultimately didn’t have enough in them to mount a comeback against the Trojans, and lost by a score of 72-58. LJ Figueroa and Eric Williams Jr. led the Ducks with 14 points apiece, while Tahj Eaddy scored 24 for the Trojans, 21 of which came in the first half. Despite this loss, Oregon has to move on quickly as they have two more games this week against Stanford and Cal.