Two road games and a pair of hungry Oregon schools proved to be a deadly combination for the Trojans.
Less than 48 hours after a 51-45 defeat at Oregon State, the USC men’s basketball team traveled some 50 miles south to take on the Oregon Ducks. But much like they faded in the second half against the Beavers, the Trojans (12-9, 4-5) ran into a wall in the final minutes of the game and never recovered in a 67-57 loss Saturday at McArthur Court.
With just under six minutes left to play, senior guard Dwight Lewis stole the ball and took it the other way for a layup, tying the score at 47. Oregon answered with a 15-2 run, leaving the Trojans reeling and unable to mount a comeback.
Following a driving layup by Oregon guard Tajuan Porter that gave the home team a 49-47 advantage, a technical foul was called on USC’s bench, abruptly halting all momentum for the Trojans. While it was initially unclear why the call was made, USC coach Kevin O’Neill later said an official told him that Stan Holt, a student manager, prompted the whistle.
“It was our manager who got the technical foul for screaming obscenities at the referee,” O’Neill said. “We were on a roll, and then the technical turned into a four-point score for them.”
Porter drained both of the ensuing free throws, and the Ducks pulled away from there, putting up 16 points in the final 4:25. Redshirt senior guard Mike Gerrity made a 3-pointer with 1:30 left to cut the deficit to seven, but by then it was too late.
Against an uncharacteristically lenient USC defense, Oregon (12-9, 4-5) shot 50 percent from the field, including 6 of 12 from behind the 3-point line. Redshirt sophomore forward Jeremy Jacob harassed the Trojans with a career-high 19 points, and sophomore guard Malcolm Armstead added 18 points for the Ducks.
USC converted just 41 percent of its shot attempts, going cold late in the second half as Oregon charged ahead. Senior guard Dwight Lewis hit three 3-pointers on his way to 16 points and Gerrity had 12 points and five assists, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Trojans from falling to 1-6 on the road this season.
“We’re not a great road team and didn’t shoot the ball well,” O’Neill said. “We just don’t shoot well from outside. We just struggled with everything today.”
The Trojans’ shooting woes were most apparent at the free-throw line, where they made just 5 of 11 attempts. Oregon went 15 of 19.
A lack of production from two key starters also hurt USC. Redshirt senior forward Marcus Johnson finished with just five points despite playing nearly the entire game, while redshirt junior forward Alex Stepheson was held scoreless.
After a sluggish start to the game, the Trojans started to close near the end of the first half, with Gerrity scoring six straight points to shave the Ducks’ lead to 31-28 going into the break.
But Oregon never let up. Josh Crittle’s fallaway jumper with 11:10 left made it 45-36. Even after USC rallied back with an 11-2 run, the Ducks proved to have an answer, out-executing and outshooting the Trojans down the stretch.
Since sweeping the Arizona schools in its first two Pac-10 games, USC has cooled off considerably, dropping five of its last seven contests and three of its last four. The Trojans’ only road victory of the season came in a 67-46 blowout of UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, a 20-minute drive from the USC campus.