By Rich Ruben
“This one hurts.”
That’s what USC head coach Andy Enfield said after a game in which the Trojans fell to Oregon, 79-70 in double overtime. In that second OT, SC’s offense did not execute, and finished the 5 minute frame without making a shot from the field and scored only three points. He and his players looked completely deflated when the game finally ended. They knew they let a game slip away which would have made a huge statement and garnered national attention. The Ducks remain undefeated at home this season, but the Trojans came so very close. SC trailed most of the game, but used a 17-2 run to take a 4 point lead late in regulation. A couple of missed scoring opportunities and Onyeka and Nick both falling down trying to get an offensive rebound led to the tying score and sent the game to overtime.
The Trojans lost because Oregon stole the ball 14 times due to a combination of a full court press which successfully trapped the ball several times, lazy passes, and poor decisions in telegraphing passes which the Ducks easily stole. Oregon’s Chris Duarte had an arena record 8 steals. Whenever SC turned the ball over, the Ducks used their lightning quick fast break to convert the miscue into points. The Trojans could not contain the quick Duarte, who finished 30 points and 11 rebounds.
They lost because they could not find ways to get the ball inside to Big O, who finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks. Half his rebounds were on the offensive end. O played the entire second half and both overtimes. He scored on high- low passes from fellow bigs Nick and Isaiah, on put backs, and made 9-10 free throws in his 46 1/2 minutes.
They lost because Jonah didn’t score in the first half in limited minutes because of two very early fouls, and Daniel didn’t score in the second half. Jonah finished with 13 points, and 3-6 from three, but was 4-12 from the field. Daniel made 2 threes and finished 3-10.
They lost because they could only make one shot from the field in the two overtimes combined. Ethan scored his only points of the game in the first overtime on a driving layup. He was fouled and made his free throw for his only points in 41 minutes. Andy acknowledged that Ethan did a very good job on the defensive end, having to guard Oregon star Payton Pritchard after Jonah’s early foul trouble. Ethan made Pritchard work very hard all game.
They lost because Jonah and Elijah each picked up two very early fouls, and played only 4 minutes each in the first half. The foul trouble left the Trojans searching for other scorers. Daniel made 3-5 from the field including 2 from long range and both of his free throws to keep SC in the game. But he took only three shots in the second half and the first overtime, and missed them all.
They lost because the smaller, quicker and more athletic Ducks outscored the Trojans 40-26 in the paint and 16-7 on fast break points.
Although the Ducks were very hot early, making 6 of their first 7 shots, and 48% of their shots in the first half, the SC defense tightened and the Ducks finished the night below 40% from the floor. After the quick Oregon start, the Trojans settled into the game. SC’s problems were not on the defensive end.
Nick never got into the flow of the game. He was only 1-6 from the field, but made 6-8 from the line. On the other hand, Isaiah played well in his 17 minutes. He had only 5 points, but he grabbed 3 offensive boards out of his 5 total, and had 2 assists, a block and a steal. He displayed as much energy as in any game this season.
The Oregon press ate into SC’s time when they crossed mid court, and there was very little ball movement and too much dribbling on a number of possessions.
Through Wednesday’s play, SC’s NET ranking had risen to 42, and after this loss is now 44. The Trojans must shake this one off quickly and play the reeling Beavers in Corvallis Saturday afternoon. A few weeks ago it looked like a win on Saturday would be a good boost to the Trojans ranking, but things have changed and with OSU struggling a loss would really hurt. Besides O, Daniel and Ethan played over 40 minutes, and there may be some concern about fresh legs. A win would salvage the road trip, but still leave the Trojans’ wondering “what if”.
Post Game Interview With Andy
He took a very long time coming out of the locker room after the game. It appeared the radio broadcast might end without the usual past game radio interview. Andy was clearly deflated. He said that most close games are decided by execution down the stretch and that the Trojans missed some lay ups and other good shots in the second OT.
Andy said he is proud of his guys, but that they need some other players to step up. The guards need to score more.
They tried to get the ball inside to O throughout the game, and especially in the overtimes, but he got only one shot in the two overtimes combined. They missed him on a couple of rolls to the basket.
Other News And Notes From Matthew Knight Arena
– The crowd was surprisingly small, about two thirds of capacity. It was like a Southern California crowd, with many fans arriving late. The students have five rows along the court on the side opposite the benches. That group was loud and rowdy all game. The rest of the students behind the basket were much quieter.
– For the most part the crowd was loud, but not deafening, except on a few late occasions.
– The arena concourses are much wider and nicer than at Galen. The design on the floor is not as distracting in person as on TV. There are only benches without seats in both student sections, which seemed odd.
– I sat in the first row behind the SC bench. In pregame warmups on that end of the court it was apparent that the Ducks are very athletic and they were very loose. They were competing for the best highlight dunk, and a few were laughing and dancing on the court. I wondered if they were taking the Trojans too lightly, but they were completely focused once the game started.
– The other thing which caught my attention before the game was Duarte’s shooting. He effortlessly made one three point shot after another, and it was obvious he is a big time player.
– The Oregon DJ really got the crowd into the game a few times; everyone on their feet clapping and dancing.
– During a few timeouts, Jonah, Jason Hart and Chris Capko were giving Ethan instructions on the bench. Jason was animated early, telling Ethan that they need more ball movement. Jason was also very vocal after a few of the Trojan turnovers.
– During a first half timeout, Andy was aggressively telling the guards that they needed to get the ball into the post. Immediately after one of those breaks, the ball went into O for a dunk.
– When O was out of the game in the first half, Eric Mobley pulled him aside. Eric seems to always have a very calm demeanor.
– When Andy walked out at the end of the first half, with the Trojans down by only two, he glanced our way with a little smile and pretended to wipe his brow as if to acknowledge that they survived what could have been a very bad first half.
– Isaiah was very animated throughout the game, both on the court and on the bench. Haven’t seen that from him before.
– In the second half, Andy pulled Nick after a bad turnover, and really lit into Nick on the bench. Nick appeared frustrated for a few minutes sitting on the bench, but he played with more energy when he went back in.
The crowd seemed exhausted after the game. The Duck fans knew that this one could have gone the other way. When the Trojans left the court, there were slumped shoulders and a lot of dejection; the complete opposite of the Stanford game. Andy and his staff need to find a way to get the players to quickly put this one behind them. They are 15-4, and a half game out of the conference lead. Elijah said after the Stanford comeback that this Trojan team is resilient. We’ll find out if he is right in Corvallis.