After traveling to Washington last week, the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team returned to Matthew Knight Arena and defeated the USC Trojans 75-67.
Going into Thursday night’s matchup, the mighty Ducks (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12) had won their previous eight games against USC (9-9, 1-5 Pac-12), and after losing to the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars last week, the Ducks stepped on the court with a winning mindset.
Oregon came out of the gates swinging as it hit six out of its first seven shots, and high-scoring guard Joseph Young led the attack with six early points. The Ducks’ hot start propelled them to an early 16-2 lead, and for just a brief moment, it looked like the Trojans would have a long night ahead of them; however, despite the Trojans’ slow start offensively, they quickly turned things around by playing aggressive zone defense. Andy Enfield‘s switch in defensive philosophy created turnovers, and the Trojans took advantage by getting easy looks in transition. USC answered Oregon’s run by going on a 12-3 run of its own midway through the first half. Freshman Jordan McLaughlin led the Trojans’ attack and the speedy point guard’s hot shooting kept USC within striking distance.
The Ducks finished the first half with a balanced attack, as eight different players scored at least one point. Also, in spite of the fact that he only produced eight points in Sunday’s loss against Washington, Young accumulated 13 points, six rebounds and two assists in the first 20 minutes of Thursday night’s contest. The redshirt senior also etched his name in the history books when he eclipsed the 1,000-career point mark late in the first half.
The high scoring Ducks never trailed during the first 20 minutes of the game and they started the second half with a 44-31 lead. Things weren’t easy in the second half, though. USC continued to utilize a 3-2 zone and the Trojans’ length and quickness on the defensive end disallowed Oregon from getting into clean offensive sets. Oregon struggled to shoot the ball in the second half, and after hitting five of his first 12 shots from the field, Young missed seven of his eight field goal attempts in the second half. USC managed to fight its way back into the game, and with about five minutes remaining, the game was tied 61-61.
What looked like a beautiful start at the beginning of the game turned out to be a sloppy finish; however, at the end of the day, there’s only one thing that matters: winning. The Ducks ended the game on a 14-6 run.
Now, the Ducks only shot 24 percent from the field in the second half, and they were constantly in the wrong spots defensively, but their domination on the boards, along with their high success rate at the free throw line, propelled the Ducks to a much needed victory.
Head coach Dana Altman believes that his young team is continuing to improve every day, but he also understands that they can’t get complacent.
“We’re a work in progress,” Altman said after the game. “We got a tremendous amount of work to do, both offensively and defensively, but more so on the defensive end. We found a way to win and that was the important thing tonight.”
The Ducks will look to keep momentum going as they host the UCLA Bruins at Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Top Photo by John Sperry