The cold streak continues for the USC men’s basketball team.
Mired by offensive ineptitude and missed opportunities of late, the Trojans (16-11, 8-7) brought their shooting woes home on Thursday, losing just their fourth game at the Galen Center this season to visiting Oregon 54-44.
“We just couldn’t do the job tonight,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill. “I thought we were low energy, and we just didn’t come out with any boost at all. We didn’t make shots. And when you have 18 turnovers, it’s hard to win.”
Despite a 32-23 lead at the half, the Trojans were only able to muster 12 points in the second half while shooting just 24 percent from the field. Guard Tajuan Porter scored 16 for the Ducks (13-14, 5-10), but it was USC’s late-game offensive breakdown that proved to be the deciding factor.
“It is frustrating,” O’Neill said. “I’m sure our players are frustrated too. They didn’t line up those wide-open shots to miss them.”
Unlike later in the game, USC showed signs of dominance in the first half; the Trojans jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on two 3-pointers from senior guard Marcus Johnson and maintained control of the ball game for most of the early proceedings. USC led by as many as 12 in the half and entered the break nine points ahead.
But the second half was where the wheels fell off for the Trojans, as they went on scoreless runs of nine and six minutes while the Ducks took the advantage. Guard LeKendric Longmire had 11 points and Porter had eight for Oregon, including a late 3-pointer that sealed the victory, in the second period.
“We really failed to capitalize,” said USC senior guard Mike Gerrity. “We settled for outside shots. [Our] confidence started to lower. It was very frustrating.”
Longmire contributed 13 points and four rebounds in total on the night, and Oregon guard Malcolm Armstead added seven points coming off the bench.
If there is a silver lining to be found, it comes in the form of the Trojans defense. Despite their continued struggles on offense, the Trojans have maintained consistency on the opposite side of the ball throughout the season, and their defense now ranks fourth in the nation at 56.4 points allowed per game. Against Oregon, USC did not allow a point for the first 4:05 of the first half and held the Ducks under the Trojans’ season average.
“It would be our hope to try and bounce back here,” O’Neill said. “It’s just a shame to play that poorly in the second half.“
The Trojans will now face Oregon State on Saturday in their last home game of the year. The second-to-last-place Beavers enter the game at 12-15 and 6-9 in the Pac-10 but have already beat the Trojans once this season in Corvallis, Ore.