Vucevic gets no help in loss to Oregon

Another double-double by junior forward goes to waste as USC shoots 36.8 from the field.

Maybe, just maybe, Kevin O'Neill is starting to come around on the importance of offense.

The second-year USC coach stresses defense like few coaches in college basketball, but even O'Neill knows you have to score some points to win a game.

That was most certainly evident at the Galen Center on Saturday night as the Trojans struggled to shoot 36.8 percent from the floor in a 61-51 loss to Oregon, a number that would have been even worse if not for another strong game by forward Nikola Vucevic.

"I liked most of our shots. We just didn't make. When you don't make, you won't win," O'Neill said.

Vucevic scored a game-high 22 points, aggressively attacking the Ducks from the start after a poor effort in their previous meeting in Eugene last month, when the junior finished with just 11.

"I'm the oldest guy on the team. I have to be a leader offensively," said Vucevic, who scored the first six Trojan points and 10 of the team's 19 in the first half. "I have accepted my role and tried to keep up with it."

Still, the total could have been higher if not for several missed shots from close range, something O'Neill said Vucevic has to address.

Many of those misses came off the seven offensive rebounds Vucevic had, finishing with a total of 16 for his 14th double-double of the season.

"You're 6-10, you're around the rim, just dunk it," O'Neill said.

But Vucevic still had more field goals – 11 – than his other six teammates combined, who managed just 10 makes on 35 shots.

"If one guy has 40 points, it doesn't matter. It's a team game and we have to balance our scoring," Vucevic said.

Maurice Jones and Donte Smith each had nine points, but needed 10 shots to do so. Jio Fontan, the team's second-leading scorer since becoming eligible in December, had four.

"We can't keep up with anybody in the Pac-10 offensively. We're just not there yet," O'Neill said.

That was especially evident from behind the arc, where USC (13-12, 5-7 Pac-10) were just 3-of-19.

By comparison, Oregon was 9-of-21 from long range.

"They were all pretty good looks. You're not going to win many games at home scoring 50," O'Neill said.

The Ducks (13-12, 6-7 Pac-10), winners of six of their last nine games, were led by 14 points from guard Malcolm Armstead. The junior's elusiveness and ability to get to the basket seemingly at will constantly frustrated the Trojans.

"We would do a good job for like 20 seconds, then the last 15 seconds they would drive and get easy baskets," Vucevic said.

"He got to the basket on all our guys anytime he wanted to," O'Neill said of Armstead, who also had five assists.


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