Oregon came into its final home basketball game of the season tonight against the USC Trojans with many possibilities open to it, including a season sweep of the LA schools and a chance to remain in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth. In a wild day in NCAA Men’s basketball, which saw 6 of the top 10 ranked teams lose, Oregon could have burnished its resume for the tournament committee by adding a victory over the 16th-ranked Trojans. But after showing great resilience and toughness and battling back to erase USC leads, Oregon could not hold their own late lead, losing to the Trojans 70 - 69.
Both teams started cold early, including 2 missed free throws by USC, and the score was only 2 - 2 after almost 3 minutes of play. The teams traded baskets, and then the Trojans took their first lead on a 3-pointer at 7 - 4 with 16:03 left. Oregon regained the lead at 8 - 7 on a Quincy Guerrier dunk and an N’Faly Dante layup, both off offensive rebounds. Neither team gained an advantage for long, as Oregon had extreme trouble making any kind of shot, but also played really solid defense. USC pushed out to 14 - 10 on another 3-pointer at 11:33, but Oregon came right back with an N’Faly hook and a Guerrier three to take a 15 - 14 lead just a minute later. After Dante scored inside again to tie the game at 17, the Trojans went on an 11 - 0 run to lead 28 - 17 with 5:14 left. USC gained its largest lead of the night at 31 - 19 after an Oregon full-court press resulted in an open 3-pointer at 4:54, but these would be the last USC points of the first half. The Ducks hit a 3, scored an alley-oop dunk on a breakaway following a steal, and Guerrier made a layup to close to 31 - 26 with 3:27 left. Oregon’s defense then forced a missed USC layup, and the Ducks scored an alley-oop layup on the fastbreak to make it 31 - 28. USC missed 2 free throws and Oregon made 2 and Guerrier closed out the first half scoring with 2 more free throws. Notable in the half was the “stopped fight boxer look” of Will Richardson, who was sporting a cut over his left eye and a fat lip when the halftime horn sounded. He required stitches at halftime, and his abuse may help explain his very poor shooting (he would finish the game 0 - 8 from the field). Oregon led at the half, 32 - 31, thanks to scoring 13 straight points, mostly from inside and the free throw line. Guerrier led the Ducks in the half with 9 points, and De’Vion Harmon added 8. Guerrier and Dante had 6 rebounds, and Richardson 3 assists. Oregon had 9 offensive rebounds. Despite the lead, Oregon had a very poor shooting half again, hitting just 35.5 percent from the field and 2 - 11 from beyond the 3-point arc. USC was marginally better at 39.9 percent but shot 5- 9 from 3-point range.
The teams spent the first part of the second half trading baskets and one point leads. But the Trojans then hit a jumper and a three-pointer to open up a 42 - 36 lead at 14:53. USC still led by 6 at 51 - 45 with 11:02 left, but Oregon hit a three, and four free throws sandwiched around a USC put-back to close to 53 - 52. After another missed USC free throw, Dante made 2 free throws at 9:00 to give the Ducks their first lead since 36 - 35. USC hit an (uncalled) banked three-pointer to regain the lead at 56 - 54 with 7:48 left. The teams again traded baskets and one-point leads until USC pushed it to 2 at 5:03 - 61 - 59 after going 3 - 4 from the free throw line. Oregon gained a 64 - 61 lead at 3:02 on a very deep 3-pointer from Jacob Young. A bad foul on Guerrier on a Trojan 3-pointer led to 3 free throws - all made - and Oregon’s lead was cut to 64 - 63 with 2:14 left. The teams traded baskets, and then USC scored after a Duck miss to lead again 67 - 66 with 41 seconds to play. But Guerrier hit another 3-pointer to give Oregon its last lead at 69 - 67. On USC’s subsequent possession, Oregon’s defense lost track of the shooter and the USC three-pointer with 11.5 seconds left gave them the lead and ultimately the win. Oregon managed a reasonably close-in shot from Richardson that missed badly and the game was over. USC prevailed 70 - 69.
For the game, Quincy Guerrier led five Ducks in double figures with 15 points. De’Vion Harmon added 13, N’Faly Dante 12, Jacob Young 11 and Eric Williams, Jr. had 10. Guerrier added 10 rebounds and Dante 8, while Will Richardson had 8 assists despite probably having his bell rung in the first half. Oregon shot just 39.3 percent, including 6 - 23 from beyond the 3-point arc. In a one-point game, virtually anything “could have” turned the tide, but Oregon’s streaky shooting kept them from putting the Trojans away late. Finding that shooting touch would make the Ducks a dangerous team. USC shot 44 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line. The Trojans also had missed opportunities, going just 10 - 17 on free throws. Oregon also missed 6 from the charity stripe.
The Ducks now go on the road to take on the Washington schools next weekend, probably just playing out the string on a season that never really kindled. Of course, a hot shooting streak during the Pac-12 tournament could still usher in another Altman miracle, and so, to coin a phrase, “you’re saying there’s a chance!”