USC players were well aware of senior guard Tahj Eaddy’s hot hand, it was hard to miss when he started off the game by hitting three consecutive 3-pointers. From there on out, it was about getting the ball in his hands, and he didn’t let them down.
Eaddy dropped 21 points in the first half, just one less than the entire Oregon team. His scoring output propelled the Trojans to a 43-22 first-half advantage, a lead they would hold through the rest of the game to defeat the Ducks 72-58 at Galen Center Monday night.
“We’re just showing that we’re one of the best teams in the country,” Eaddy said in a virtual press conference Monday night. “We feel like we let one slip against Arizona. We just wanted to let teams know that you can’t bully us, anything like that. We’re just showing that we’re fighters, and we’re not gonna give in like that.”
In many ways, it was a perfect bounce-back win for No. 17 USC, who was coming off of its first loss in eight games against Arizona on Saturday. Eaddy finished the game with 24 and junior guard Drew Peterson had 15 points off of the bench.
“Our players really were focused,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “They understood, once they saw some of the video from Saturday’s game, we were outplayed by a very good Arizona team, and they just didn’t want that to happen again tonight.”
The Trojans went without sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley, who is day-to-day with a strained calf muscle, allowing them to embrace more of a small-ball approach, something which the team isn’t usually known for. This ended up being an adequate counter to Oregon’s full-court-press defense.
“We had to adjust our lineup a little bit,” Enfield said. “We went small … but our forwards and our guards did a really good job rebounding and defending. We were able to play with an extra ball handler to break their press and to spread the floor offensively.”
Another change to the lineup saw Peterson, who had previously struggled, come off of the bench. He still played 36 minutes and filled up the stat sheet along with his 15 points, grabbing 11 boards, assisting four times and getting two steals.
“Especially coming off the bench woke me up a little bit,” Peterson said. “I’ve been shooting poor, and I lost a little bit of confidence. I just came into the game trying to do a little bit of everything. When I’m getting rebounds and assists like that it helps me get my shot to fall, and I’m in a better rhythm out there.”
Oregon, notorious for its 3-point-shooting ability, took a little too long to get warmed up, falling behind early in the first half. It took the Ducks just over eight minutes of play to make their first field goal. They found their feet in the second half though, staying within striking distance and cutting the deficit to just 10 at one point.
“We knew they would go on a run eventually, and they went on a few runs,” Enfield said. “We were able to withstand that toward the end of the game. Oregon’s an exceptional basketball team. So you’re not gonna hold them down the whole game, and to hold [them] to 58 points is a credit to our defense.”
Enfield’s team was preparing to face Stanford before the Pac-12 changed their schedule last Thursday, giving the Trojans just one day to prepare for the Ducks following their game Saturday against Arizona.
“It’s hard to prepare for [Oregon] in one day because of their unique style in the match-up zone and full-court pressure,” Enfield said. “I thought our players did a terrific job of paying attention to the scouting report. They played very hard tonight, and I’m very proud of them and the way they responded on short notice.”
USC moved to 19-4 on the season and 13-3 in conference play, and have a chance to win a regular season conference title for the first time since the 1984-85 season.
“We control our own destiny,” Eaddy said. “We have a tough road ahead. We’re just trying to make the most of our opportunities. Every game is important at this point; we’re treating it like we’re in March Madness already.”
The team is set for a tough matchup on the road against Colorado Thursday night. Tip-off is at 6 p.m..