After starting conference play with back-to-back convincing wins at the Galen Center, a brutal Oregon trip leaves the Trojans at one of their lowest points of the season. Just three days after losing in overtime to Oregon State, the Trojans suffered a demoralizing 81-60 loss at Oregon on Sunday night.
The Trojans entered the game missing star freshman Kevin Porter Jr., who, after finally returning from a thigh bruise that kept him out 10 games, faced a team suspension. According to a USC spokesperson, Porter Jr. was suspended by head coach Andy Enfield for “conduct issues” that occured between Thursday’s loss to Oregon State and tipoff on Sunday. His situation will be re-evaluated upon the team’s return to campus.
Coming into the game, the Trojans had defeated Oregon in their last three meetings. Poor rebounding and shooting from USC stopped the streak from growing past there. The Trojans shot just 5-for-18 from deep and got outrebounded 31-to-22.
Junior guard Jonah Mathews has been one of the lone threats from deep lately, hitting 15 of his 31 shots from beyond-the-arc in Pac-12 play. However, the team hasn’t followed in Mathews’ tracks: Excluding the contributions of Mathews, USC has shot just 8-for-42 from deep since entering conference play.
Oregon head coach Dana Altman recognized the recent shooting funk of USC and dared the Trojans to shoot throughout the night, by sitting his team back in a 2-3 defense. Enfield employed the same daring tactic, but Oregon responded by shooting 54 percent from deep, hitting a season-high 13 three-pointers.
The shooting from deep was just one of the many storylines of a game between teams heading in vastly different directions.
Both teams suffered hard fought defeats in their last outings and both teams served as prime examples of how a team usually starts a game after such a loss. Oregon came out with something to prove, taking a 12-4 lead in the game’s first four minutes. USC on the other hand came out lackadaisical, making just two of its first ten shots.
Junior forward Nick Rakocevic had a career week to kick off conference play, averaging 25 points and earning Pac-12 player of the week. However, the last week of play has been the polar opposite for Pac-12 rebound leader. After scoring 50 points in USC’s two Pac-12 wins, Rakocevic scored just 17 in the last two games, stripping USC of a previously reliable offensive weapon for much of the night.
Senior forward Bennie Boatwright played an efficient game, but the Trojans needed more than a good shot percentage and 13 points. Boatwright’s heroic 37-point effort from Thursday night seemed to halt his aggression against the Ducks, as he attempted just nine shots in a game where the Trojans were searching for any signs of offense.
A Boatwright and-one late in the first half capped an 8-2 USC run and brought the Trojans with 7 points at 28-21, but a personal 5-0 run from Oregon freshman forward Louis King halted the lone example of momentum the Trojans had mustered. King combined with redshirt senior forward Paul White to score a combined 28 first half points, as much as the Trojans had all together going into halftime.
Both King and White had career nights, as White tied a career-high 19 points while King followed up his best game of the season against UCLA with an equally impressive performance against USC, totaling 19 points, 8 rebounds and a career-high 6 assists.
The Trojans will look to bounce back from a tough week on Saturday at 1 p.m. as they take on UCLA at the Galen Center.