Entering the final stretch of the regular season, the Oregon men’s basketball team needs tough wins on the road. The Ducks survived a late rally by USC Wednesday night, defeating the Trojans 80-75 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) February 12, 2015
The Ducks won their fourth straight game and improve to 18-7 overall (8-4 Pac-12), completing their series sweep of the Trojans, who remain at the bottom of the conference at 9-15 (1-11 Pac-12).
Joseph Young led the Ducks with 26 points, following up his outstanding performance against Washington State and Pac-12 Player of the Week honors with another dominating offensive clinic.
Freshman Dillon Brooks and junior Elgin Cook both contributed 15 points. Cook had 7 rebounds and six assists.
Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Jordan Bell both had 8 points.
Bell’s return provided the Ducks’ defense a huge lift as the freshman grabbed four defensive rebounds, one steal, and one block. Bell currently has 72 blocks on the season.
Oregon jumped out to an early lead 8-2 thanks to quick baskets by Bassett and Cook. By halftime, Oregon led USC, 35-27.
Despite the lead, the Trojans marched out of the locker room and with 16:49 remaining in the second half, tied the game, 41-41.
Julian Jacobs led the Trojans with 18 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
But a reinvigorated USC squad didn’t have an answer for the dynamic play of Young, who responded to the Trojan’s surge by scoring seven points in less than a minute.
From that point forward, the Ducks refused to relinquish the lead.
After the game, Oregon head coach Dana Altman said his team started the game playing good basketball, but came out flat in the second half.
“We came out pretty sharp but as the game went on, I felt we kind of fell into their [USC] game,” Altman said. ”Second half, we played with really bad energy. There was not a good flow to the game. We have to get better consistency to go into UCLA and get a win.”
Oregon shot 58% from the field with three Ducks scoring in double digits. Despite a good shooting night for Oregon, Jacobs helped USC pull within three, 76-73, giving the Trojans a chance to tie with a minute remaining. Oregon’s defense ultimately held on, securing the Ducks’ an important win on the road.
— Oregon Basketball (@OregonMBB) February 12, 2015
Strong, consistent defensive play remains a sore spot for the Ducks and something that has to improve for Oregon to accomplish its postseason goals, and it’s something Altman has preached all season long.
“Defensively, we have a ways to go,” Altman said. “Fortunately, we got a few stops and made enough shots to win it.”
In the big picture, the Ducks have only strengthened their case as they look for an outright NCAA tournament bid. Next up, Oregon will face UCLA on February 14th at Pauley Pavilion.
“We’ve got to get better. We needed the win, don’t get me wrong,” Altman said. “Now, defensively, we have to shore it up and get ready because UCLA’s a good team.”
Top photo from earlier game against USC with photo by John Sperry