O.J. Mayo Scored the Points, but Wilkinson Inspired the Win
O.J. Mayo led the Trojans to victory Thursday night at the Galen Center, matching his season-high 32 points. He also had two rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Mayo was 5-7 from three-point territory. Four starters scored in double figures, including Mayo, Taj Gibson (15 points and 8 rebounds), Angelo Johnson (14 points) and Dwight Lewis (12 points). Davon Jefferson had eight points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of play.
While his teammates scored the points, Keith Wilkinson deserved the game ball. Going scoreless on two three-point attempts, Wilkinson grabbed 11 rebounds to inspire the crowd and his teammates. With the Trojans down by nine points at intermission and as far down as 13 points, Wilkinson came in the game and led the Trojans to victory. His hustle, rebounding and heart inspired the crowd and at the same time, the Trojans to play hard-nosed basketball.
Reflecting on Wilkinson's play, Coach Floyd said, "We got a tremendous lift from Keith Wilkinson off the bench with 11 rebounds. He only played 23 minutes, had 11 boards and played great defensively."
Said Wilkinson, "It was fun, I needed to give the team a lift, and I think I did that tonight." He continued, "After that first one, (rebound in the second half) the crowd really responded and got the team fired up. I think that really helped and it was a turning point for us."
It Was the Best of Halves; It was the Worst of Halves
In the first half, the Ducks appeared poised to win the game going-away. As well as the Ducks played, the Trojans looked equally beleaguered and uninspired. Oregon led by as many as 13 points in the half and appeared comfortable with a 42-33 lead at the half.
Going into the second half the Trojans continued to flounder. At the 17:57 mark, Jefferson turned the ball over on an in-bounds violation and was angered. Coach Floyd quickly replaced Jefferson with Wilkinson, who played most of the remaining time. Wilkinson played 17 minutes and had nine rebounds in the second half.
Wilkinson's hustle to grab rebounds and play defense changed the complexion and momentum of the game from this point forward. Not unlike Lakers great, Kurt Rambis, Wilkinson seemed to be around the ball on rebounds, defense and constantly hustled on the court. The Trojans grabbed the momentum, finally catching the Ducks at 57-56. The lead wasn't secured until Mayo put the Trojans up 73-69 on a three point shot. The Trojans never lost the lead again, squeezing-out an 81-75 victory.
Taj Gibson grabs a rebound against Oregon (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
O.J. Mayo shoots a free throw against Oregon (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
Angelo Johnson defends Oregon's Kamyron Brown (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
O.J. Mayo converts a jumper over Oregon's Joevan Catron (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
Dwight Lewis, Taj Gibson and O.J. Mayo fired-up during timeout (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
Taj Gibson celebrates after USC defeated Oregon 81-75 (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)