I'm sure if Pete Carroll was sitting next to me during last night's televised USC-Oregon basketball game, he would've told me not to fret over USC hoops. That Oregon, with the opening of the new Matthew Knight Arena, was just really "jacked and came out to play." No question Uncle Pete's assertion would be telling, as in many respects, the Ducks did come out "fired up." Five players finished in double figures, collectively shooting 43 percent from the field. They had good ball movement on offense, and defensively, they did a fantastic job slowing down Nikola Vucevic, holding him to just 11 points far below his previous season average of 16.1 points per game.
So, all in all, Oregon deserves some credit for coming out and playing well. But where I have a serious problem with Kevin O'Neill and this USC basketball team is their absolute incompetence against the zone defense. O'Neill has been coaching basketball in college and the professional ranks for the betterment of twenty years, yet once again, this team is entirely useless against the zone. They looked lost, confused and show no resemblance of offensive structure or an inside-outside game. Frankly, I'm not entirely sure how's that's possible.
The problem lies in the fact that Oregon, which led 32-26 at halftime, opened the second half on a 25-11 run, a nine-minute stretch of time that essentially won the game for UO. Against UCLA, USC had a similar lapse of time where it had difficulty scoring. For odd stretches of time, the Trojans take plays off, and with limited depth, they can't afford to do so.
If they're going to win, Jio Fontan and Alex Stepheson need to finish in double figures (both finished with just nine points).
With Oregon missing three starters, this is a game USC should have won. It has bmore talented players and has beaten far better teams (see: Tennessee and Texas). If they have any tournament aspirations, they're going to need wins against sub-par Pac-10 teams, even those that run a zone defense.
Time to stop the excuses. We've reached the point in O'Neill's tenure, where his teams need to start making progress against zone defenses, because thus far, I haven't seen much.