Trojans to travel the Oregon trail
The Trojans aim to end their longest losing streak since 2003 when they face Oregon (13-5, 4-2) at Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday. The Pac-12 matchup is the first of a two-game road trip for USC in the Beaver State, concluding on Saturday with a game against Oregon State¬† ¬† (11-7, 1-5).
The Ducks are coming off a 59-57 road victory against Arizona, handing the Wildcats their second home loss of the season. The Trojans, meanwhile, are trying to move on from a blowout loss against crosstown rival UCLA.
‚ÄúWe have to get back on track,‚ÄĚ said freshman guard Alexis Moore, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs obvious we need a win, so our goal is to get better in practice every day.‚ÄĚ
USC coach Kevin O‚ÄôNeill echoed similar sentiments as his team geared up for a difficult inter-conference clash.
‚ÄúWin or lose, your job is to do your job on every play, every single day,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôNeill said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the way we approach practice, shooting, individual work, all of that.‚ÄĚ
Even as the losses continue to pile up, the Trojans have maintained a positive outlook regarding their upcoming schedule.
‚ÄúIn terms of team morale, we still have to stick together and keep spirits high in order to finish out the rest of the season,‚ÄĚ Moore said.
One point of emphasis for the Trojans against Oregon will be the rebounding battle, especially after getting dominated on the boards by the Bruins by a wide margin ‚ÄĒ 66-47.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to have to start really focusing on [rebounding],‚ÄĚ said redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon.
The Ducks are a veteran-laden team, starting three seniors and two juniors. Meanwhile, the Trojans are a much younger squad without any seniors logging significant minutes.
‚Äú[It‚Äôs] not just that [the Ducks are] older, they‚Äôre talented,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôNeill said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre playing well right now, and they‚Äôre playing at home. It‚Äôs going to be a challenge. We‚Äôll have to play our best game to have a chance to win.‚ÄĚ
In addition to their edge in the experience department, Oregon has multiple shooters whom the Trojans will need to keep from getting hot from beyond the arc.
‚ÄúWe basically have to run them off of threes and contest all their two-point jump shots,‚ÄĚ Moore said. ‚ÄúObviously they‚Äôre going to make some shots, but our goal is to try to minimize that as much as possible. We have to get up in them and pressure them and force the drive.‚ÄĚ
Forward E.J. Singler, perhaps the Ducks‚Äô biggest offensive threat, garnered high praise from O‚ÄôNeill.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs any question. … He‚Äôs one of the best [in the Pac-12],‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôNeill said. ‚ÄúSingler is the guy that glues this team together, and he has a bunch of guys he‚Äôs played with that understand the game.‚ÄĚ
After Thursday‚Äôs game, the Trojans will take on the Pac-12‚Äôs most potent offensive squad, Oregon State. The Beavers are averaging 82.7 points per game ‚ÄĒ tied for fifth-highest in the country and nearly 30 points higher than USC‚Äôs current output (53.6 points per game).
As the Trojans play out the two-game set against Oregon teams and move on in Pac-12 play, O‚ÄôNeill has a message for disgruntled USC hoops fans in search of some victories.
‚ÄúI understand [fans‚Äô] frustration,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôNeill said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm frustrated too, the players are frustrated … We appreciate their loyalty, we appreciate them cheering for their team.‚ÄĚ