EUGENE, Ore. – The Ducks took on the USC Trojans Saturday night, desperately looking for a win. With Phil Knight in attendance — and enjoying being the honoree on “Appreciation Knight” with his Duck family – Oregon HAD to come out and put up or shut up. That’s exactly what they did – put up, that is — as the Ducks came out with a critical 78-66 win over the Trojans.
Throughout Oregon’s recent inconsistent play, one thing has always been consistent, and that’s the team’s spirit. Coach Dana Altman said after the game, “Our energy looked really good tonight,” and that’s exactly what the Ducks advantage was over USC.
The first half was a little shaky for the Ducks, especially on the boards. Oregon was out-rebounded 21-11, giving USC multiple opportunities to initiate its offense. The Trojans definitely took advantage of their rebounding dominance early, as they finished the half leading 38-34, shooting 50% from the field.
While USC’s offense was rolling, the Ducks offense was in a bit of a struggle to ignite. Joseph Young continued his recent hot streak as he had 12 points at the half to lead the Ducks, while our long lost favorite, Mike Moser, got himself composed and added 7 points of his own.
Thankfully, the Ducks are so talented on the offensive end of the ball that anyone at any point could chip in to give Oregon a chance. But, how was Oregon able to stay in this one shooting 39% from the field?
The Ducks’ energy on defense, a crucial part of their game that hasn’t been a strong-suit during their string of losses, created opportunities by making USC turn the ball over 10 times by halftime. The Ducks rely heavily off their transition points, but with their weaker defensive play during their PAC-12 drought, they haven’t been able to produce the turnovers they need to flourish. Tonight, however, that was not the case.
I don’t know what Coach Altman gave his men to eat at halftime, but Oregon came out of the break looking sharper, more aware and more dominant than we’ve seen in a very long time. Their hands were quick in the passing lanes, while their court awareness was at an all-time high. Although USC still shot 49% on the game, Oregon’s defense was what won them this one.
For the game, USC turned the ball over 22 times, to the Ducks 6. It doesn’t matter how well a team is shooting, because if they can’t hold onto the ball, the opposing team will still outscore them off those TOs. And, if USC did its scouting correctly, they should have known that Oregon’s best weapon is its transition offense.
The Ducks’ full-court press was what created the majority of these opportunities. We’ve seen Coach Altman use the full-court press before, but usually its purpose is just to take a few more seconds off the shot clock, as it’s not a very hounding press. Saturday’s press was incredibly aggressive, and the Trojans simply didn’t have a response.
Guard Jason Calliste also helped out a ton, adding 18 points, and 5 rebounds. Coach Altman expressed his appreciation for Calliste in his post game interview saying, “When Jason is healthy, he’s a great asset for our team.” The importance of having a solid backup guard is inexplicable. So, having a great backup guard is that much better.
The high man tonight for the Ducks was Joseph Young, with 21 points and an impressive 6 steals. This is the type of mojo that the Ducks have to carry on throughout their PAC-12 play if they expect to strike any fear into their opponents eyes, especially in their next matchup against No. 1 Arizona on Thursday.
Top photo by Kevin Cline