USC had an opportunity to show it is a legitimate contender in the Pac-12. Instead, the No. 22 Trojans showed they were not ready for the spotlight, playing their worse game of the year and being humbled by a hungry Oregon team that dominated nearly every facet of the game.
The No. 21 Ducks (13-2, 2-0) waltzed to a 23-point win Friday night at Matthew Knight Arena -- where they now have a 35-game win streak dating back to last season. Dillon Brooks led the onslaught. He missed only one shot all night, finishing with 28 points despite not playing the final 7:23. Dylan Ennis added 20 points.
USC (14-1, 1-1) started the game slowly for the umpteenth time this season, falling into a nine-point deficit in the first four minutes. The Trojans rallied, going on a 15-2 run as Oregon suffered an eight and a half minute field goal drought. The only problem was USC followed with its own field goal drought of more than seven minutes. It made just two field goals in the final 10:11 of the half, allowing the Ducks to push the lead back to nine points by halftime.
The second half was all Ducks from the start. Oregon scored on nine of its first 12 second half possessions in the midst of a 22-3 spurt to begin the half. Combining USC's poor first half finish and the even worse second half beginning, the Trojans made just three field goals in 19:03, during which the Ducks reeled off a 44-13 run.
De'Anthony Melton led four USC players in double figures with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He added five rebounds and two steals. Jonah Mathews scored 11 points -- his third straight double figure effort. Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin both had 10 points.
Here's three takeaways from USC's 84-61 loss at Oregon on Friday night:
McLaughlin and Metu
Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu are arguably USC's two most important players. McLaughlin controls the ball. Metu controls the paint. The Trojans need McLaughlin and Metu to play well and help carry the team, particularly against a high-caliber club like Oregon. On Friday, the team needed to carry McLaughlin and Metu to the operating table for emergency surgery.
Both had issues offensively. They combined to shoot an abysmal 2 for 18. McLaughlin struggled to control the tempo and get the Trojans in productive sets. He finished 1 for 6 from the field and wasn't able to get in the lane to be the innovative creator he normally is. USC's offense as a whole was stagnant, leading to just eight assists on 16 field goals.
Metu played his worst game in a USC uniform. He was bothered by Oregon's length inside where Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher and Kavell Bigby-Williams contested every single shot he took.
One sequence epitomized how rough a night it was for Metu. Twice he went up for dunk attempts only to have the freshly checked in Bigby-Williams swat them away. On Oregon's subsequent possession, a shot went up and missed off the rim. Metu tried to grab the rebound only for it to bounce off his hands and into the hoop for a Ducks' bucket.
Metu finished with 11 rebounds, but just four points, snapping a streak of nine straight games scoring in double figures.
Prior to their trip to Oregon, the Trojans had shot at least 44.4 percent in 10 consecutive games. They shot 33.9 percent on the trip, including just 31 percent on Friday night. The only Trojan to shoot 50 percent or better with more than one made field goal was freshman forward Harrison Henderson, who only played five minutes at the end of the game after the game had long been decided.
USC wasn't able to get as many open looks as it normally would, but the Trojans also went to the rim soft, scared of getting their shot blocked -- which happened eight times. They played tentative at times and allowed Oregon to control the game throughout.
Trapping the Tempo
Speaking of Oregon's control, the Ducks were able to depict just how quick they wanted the pace of the game to be the entire night. They slowed USC down to a snail's pace with a half court expanded 1-2-2 trap. Instead of going at the defense by getting the ball in the middle and attacking the back two defenders with a three on two, USC was content with passing the ball back and forth at the top of the trap until it got the ball past half court and Oregon pilled back.
The Ducks were able to take seven to eight seconds off the shot clock on the majority of USC's possessions, which slowed the Trojans, keeping them from getting in a rhythm with a good flow.
It is up to Jordan McLaughlin and De'Anthony Melton to assess the defense and to know when to attack the trap rather than being comfortable letting it come to them and then passing over and around it. But they didn't always do well with that. All five USC starters finished with three turnovers each. As a team, USC had a season-high 17 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Ducks. USC lost by 23.
The tempo also wasn't helped by the Pac-12 officials calling a foul seemingly on every contact between players. It wouldn't have been surprising to have seen a high-five get whistled. The foul calls affected the Trojans more than the home team. Reserve forward Charles Buggs fouled out with more than 15 minutes remaining in the game. He played just seven minutes. Fellow backup post player Nick Rakocevic had four fouls and played just 12 total minutes. Chimezie Metu also had four fouls while Oregon did not have any player collect more than three fouls.
The Trojans have nearly a full week to lick their wounds and get back to work before hosting Stanford at the Galen Center on Thursday, Jan. 5. The Cardinal is 8-5 on the season with a game against No. 18 Arizona still to be played on Sunday. Reid Travis is a double-double machine for Stanford, averaging 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds entering tonight's games. He gets to the free throw line frequently and has scored 20+ points in four of the last five games. Starting forward Michael Humphreys is in concussion protocol and has not played this week.
Nah. Not really.
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