Another week, another two close losses for the USC Trojans (9-14 overall, 1-10 Pac-12). Andy Enfield's team has now lost eight in a row, four by four points or less and two others by eight. Last week's losses were likely two of the toughest for the Trojans to take. Up by two at Cal in the closing seconds, Tyrone Wallace hit a three-pointer as time expired. Then, after a hot shooting first half against Stanford and a six-point lead at the break, everything unraveled down the stretch and USC fell, 70-62.
This week, the Trojans have a second crack at the Oregon Ducks (17-7, 7-4) and Oregon State Beavers (16-7, 7-4), as they host the pair at the Galen Center. They are tied for third place in the Pac-12 with Stanford and are both playing very well.
The Trojans suffered narrow losses to both on the road three weeks ago. Will this be the week they climb over the hump and break their long losing streak? We'll find out.
Dana Altman's Ducks have won five of six, the only loss coming on the road against No. 6 Arizona. They are coming off a home sweep of the Washington schools. The streak started back on January 22, when they defeated USC, 75-67. Oregon surged to a 16-2 start in that game and had a 13-point halftime lead, only to see USC come all the way back to tie it at 61 with 5:40 to go. The Ducks went on a 9-0 run over the next five minutes, though, to put it away.
Joseph Young, who is second in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.7 PPG), led the way with 19 points, but needed 20 shots to do so. Elgin Cook had 15 points, Dillon Brooks 12 points and Jalil Abdul-Bassit 11.
Julian Jacobs and Katin Reinhardt led USC with 16 points apiece. Jordan McLaughlin had 14 points and Nikola Jovanovic put up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line, where Oregon (25-for-31) made 14 more than USC (11-for-18).
Look for the Ducks to use multiple defenses to try and negate Jovanovic's advantage inside and run every chance they get. They lead the Pac-12 in scoring (77.2 PPG) and free throw shooting (75.1 percent).
OREGON STATE PREVIEW
The Beavers have won five of seven, are easily the surprise of the league this season, and first-year head coach Wayne Tinkle is far and away the favorite for Coach of the Year in the Pac-12. Tinkle was forced to hold open tryouts before the season because of how depleted his program was and a few of those players actually made the team.
However, while they are undefeated at home (14-0), they have struggled on the road in conference play (1-4). Their lone win came over lowly Washington State. This trip to LA is critical for them because they have to win some road games if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Their only other road trip is to the Bay Area in a couple weeks.
Their signature win came over the Arizona Wildcats in Corvallis, but the Wildcats returned the favor in Tucson with a 23-point thrashing a couple weeks ago. Oregon State's average margin of defeat in their four road conference losses is 16.5 points. They beat USC, 59-55, in Corvallis on January 24 in a tightly contested game from start to finish, especially in the second half.
Down by three points with nine seconds left, a Julian Jacobs turnover and a subsequent Beaver free throw sealed the deal. Point guard Gary Payton II was sensational for Oregon State, as the junior college transfer poured in 21 points (7-for-13 FG) and 10 rebounds. He is fourth in the league in rebounding, despite being listed at just 6'3".
The Beavers used just two players off the bench, but one of them was Jarmal Reid, who had 14 points. Olaf Schaftenaar had 11 points, including a barrage of three consecutive 3-pointers at the beginning of the second half.
Katin Reinhardt led USC with 17 points and sunk four three-pointers. Nikola Jovanovic scored 13 points. Jordan McLaughlin really struggled against Payton II and was just 2-for-11 from the floor with nine points. He did have seven assists. Darion Clark had eight points and eight rebounds, all of his points coming from the free throw line, where he was perfect despite shooting 53.2 percent from there this season.
Oregon State is the top field goal percentage defense team in the Pac-12, holding opponents to just 36.8 percent shooting. They held USC to 34 percent shooting in the first meeting.