USC led Oregon State by as many as 15 points but watched its lead slip away in the second half to the surging Beavers. It came down to the final seconds before Trojan redshirt senior Aaron Fuller made his only basket of the game, putting the Trojans up by one and giving USC its third conference victory.
"I'm excited we won," USC interim head coach Bob Cantu said after the game. "We certainly didn't make it easy there at the end."
The 69-68 win over the Beavers lifts USC to 3-3 in Pac-12 play, 8-11 overall. Oregon State falls to 0-5 in the Pac-12 and 10-8 overall.
Sophomore Byron Wesley led the Trojans with 19 points.
"Basketball is definitely a game of runs," Wesley said after the game. "We just had to keep playing."
First win for Cantu
Saturday night's victory over Oregon State is the first career win for interim head coach Bob Cantu.
"It feels great," Cantu said before adding, "when a 15-point lead evaporates your blood pressure certainly goes up."
Cantu, in his 12th season with the Trojans, is now 1-1 in his interim role.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm feeling more and more comfortable every day and I'm really happy for our guys."
"It's extremely exciting," Wesley said about the first victory for Cantu. "He's been here for 12 years now and I couldn't be happier for him."
A win is a win, but it wasn't necessarily a good-looking one. USC committed 20 turnovers against Oregon State, 10 of them belonging to senior guard Jio Fontan.
"Jio is our leader, he is our captain, he's had some great games and he'll continue to have great games," Cantu said. "He did turn it over tonight, but I'm not too discouraged by that."
Cantu attributed the high number of turnovers to Oregon State's 1-3-1 defense. "They're very good at it," he said.
Until Saturday's contest, USC had averaged 12 turnovers a game.
Pushing the tempo
Kevin O'Neill, relieved of his head coaching duties on Monday prior to this week's games, tried to instill defense into his teams.
"(Cantu) definitely has some different philosophies from (O'Neill)," explained Wesley. "We're making strides and (Cantu) definitely emphasizes getting in the paint."
Cantu is working to keep the defensive mindset that O'Neill preached, but is also emphasizing pushing the ball up the court. It's an effort that has been visible in the Trojans last two games under his leadership and one they say is allowing them to play basketball "freely".
"I've emphasized to everybody to be aggressive," Cantu explained. "Try to get to the basket, loosen things up, and then more things can fall."
"Cantu wants us to run more, push it," Wesley said. "He wants us to get early shots and just play free."
The Trojans will then travel to Tucson to play No. 7 Arizona. The Wildcats are 4-1 in the Pac-12 and 16-1 overall. Their only loss this season was to Oregon in Eugene.