Sophomore guard Maurice Jones and redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon combined for 40 points against Oregon Thursday night, but the Trojans (5-14, 0-6) stumbled yet again, falling to the Ducks 65-62 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
The loss marked USC’s seventh straight, dropping the team to 0-6 in Pac-12 play, the team’s worst start since the 1988-1989 season when it opened 0-12.
The Trojans had arguably one of their best shooting performances of the season, converting 25 of 61 field goal attempts — just the second time in the last 10 games they had shot more than 40 percent from the field. Yet, they but uncharacteristically had issues on the defensive end of the floor.
Led by guard Garrett Sim’s four 3-pointers, Oregon (14-5, 5-2) was able to shoot 46 percent, including 38 percent from beyond the arc. Additionally, the Ducks outrebounded USC, 31-24.
The Trojans’ efforts were complicated – somewhat — because of the absence of their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, junior forward Aaron Fuller.
Fuller is scheduled to have surgery next week to repair a torn labrum in his left (shooting) shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. Through 18 games, the Iowa transfer averaged 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. The injury leaves USC all the more thin in terms of depth. Against Oregon, USC coach Kevin O’Neill played just six scholarship players, including two freshmen in guards Alexis Moore and Byron Wesley.
Both Moore and Wesley struggled to get going offensively, shooting a combined 4-of-15 from the field.
USC, collectively at least, was effective early. Over the course of the first 20 minutes, it shot 46 percent from the field, including 40 percent from 3-point range.
But in the second half, it struggled and went 0-for-8 from beyond the arc – similar to its Jan. 8 contest against Arizona when it converted just 1-of-15 3-point attempts.
Dedmon and Jones, as a result, shouldered much of the scoring load. The 7-foot center’s 18 points marked a career-high and Jones’ 22 points were the third-most he had scored in a game this season. And the 5-foot-7 Jones was perhaps even more dangerous in the waning moments, hitting a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left to pull the Trojans within one point.
But on the next possession, guard Devoe Joseph, who finished with 16 points, nailed two free throws to give the Ducks a late three-point lead they would never relinquish.
Jones did have one final chance to tie the game with six seconds remaining in the contest, but his 3-pointer was off target.
Searching for their first win in conference play, the Trojans will next head to Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday to face Oregon State. It won’t be easy.
Though the Beavers (12-7, 2-5) have stumbled in Pac-12 play early on, they boast the conference’s leading scorer in guard Jared Cunningham, who as of Thursday, is averaging 17.6 points per contest. The 6-foot-4 guard scored 35 points in two games against USC last season.
USC leads the all-time series between the two programs 67-58.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket.