The Sweet Sixteen baby! As the Pac-12 continues to be the toast of the tourney, The Oregon Ducks took on the USC Trojans for the right to advance to the Elite Eight. These two teams only met once this season, in a dominant win for the Trojans in which they seemingly couldn’t miss and Oregon just wasn’t able to keep up. The winner of tonight’s game joins Oregon State as the second team from the Conference of Champions to move onto the next round.
Eugene Omoruyi kicked off the scoring for the Ducks with 5 early points, as well as a crafty pass for a Chris Duarte finish as the Ducks got off to a good start, unlike their last matchup against the Trojans. The winner of this game becomes the third team from the Pac-12 to make the Elite 8, meaning that the conference will have more teams in the Elite 8 than Pac teams that have been eliminated so far (Colorado and the loser of this game.) The early minutes contained a lot of back and forth scoring for both teams, with Oregon getting some good looks behind the three point line while USC was attacking the Ducks in the paint.
USC’s Isaiah White was doing most of the damage so far, he had 10 points and was scoring from everywhere on the floor. The Ducks started to struggle a bit on offense, missing a few threes badly and struggling to break through USC’s zone defense. One of the Trojan’s strengths is the length of their team, and it was on full display so far against Oregon. The Trojans started clicking on offense, and forced Oregon to call a timeout as they ran up the score to 28-19. The Ducks’ shooting had gone ice cold, missing 11 of their last 12 shots until Omoruyi broke the drought with a steal and a fast break dunk, but they were still down 33-21.
Oregon was able to score a few more times before half, but still trailed at the break, 41-26. The Ducks just couldn’t slow down the Trojans on offense and were struggling to get good looks against USC’s tough defense. The threes had stopped falling for the Ducks, and they would need to start making them in order to come back in the second half.
Will Richardson split the USC defense in the middle of the lane for the first Duck points of the second half, as Oregon looked to find success against the USC defense that gave them so much trouble in the first half. Just as he was in the first matchup, USC’s Tahj Eaddy was giving Oregon fits. He can catch fire so quickly and he was feeling it against the Ducks. Eugene Omoruyi was able to hit a three to break their drought from behind the arc, but Oregon still trailed 52-35.
While most of Oregon was struggling, LJ Figueroa was particularly having a rough time. He had missed all of his three point attempts and got called for a travel on a fast break. Meanwhile, it seemed like almost everyone on USC was playing well. The Mobleys were an unstoppable duo, Isaiah White had a career high scoring night, and Eaddy was also playing well. Omoruyi and Duarte were doing the most damage for Oregon, but without contributions from the rest of the team, they just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the Trojans.
Oregon was able to make a bit of a run against USC, and they were able to get a 11-0 run to bring it to an 11 point game. Franck Kepnang continues to impress Duck fans with his energy, unfortunately he was also called for two fouls in less than 30 seconds. He’s a bit raw, but he’s a guy that Duck fans will want to pay attention to next year. Despite some better play in the second half, it wasn’t enough to make a comeback, as the USC Trojans cruised to an 82-68 victory to advance to the Elite Eight, where undefeated Gonzaga awaits.
What a weird and wild season. Despite a ton of roster turnover, and the challenges of a weird Covid season, this Ducks team accomplished a lot. They had plenty of ups and downs, but hung tough and made a great run to the Sweet 16. These guys have a lot to be proud of, they gave their all and Oregon was the only college in the country that sent their football team to a NY6 bowl game, and both their men’s and women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16. They were one of only two schools to win the regular season title in both football and basketball. The Ducks gave their all night in and night out and it was an honor to watch them grow as the season went on.