January 21, 2016 by Jacob Freedman
USC’s fast-paced offense met its match on Thursday night, as the Oregon Ducks dominated the paint and used the long ball to outpace the Trojans 89-81 in Eugene. Bennie Boatwright led USC with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Julian Jacobs had 18 points and five assists. USC falls to 15-4 (4-2 in Pac-12) with the loss, with their next game against Oregon State (11-6, 2-4) in Corvallis at 12 pm on Sunday. Here’s the takeaways from the loss:
Late Game Executed
The Trojans had plenty of changes to hack away at the Ducks’ lead late, but a bevy of mistakes stopped USC dead in their tracks. After a double lane violation gave USC the ball down 81-73 with 2:05 left, Julian Jacobs traveled, then was called for a technical after tossing the ball in the air following the call. Jacobs airballed a three-pointer on his next possession, and the Ducks pushed their lead back to a cushy 11 points with 1:08 to go. The final minute took 10 minutes in real time, but the Trojans never cut it to below seven.
Bennie Got Buckets
The bright spot of the loss was the lanky freshman sensation, who notched career highs with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-11 forward showed off his shot arsenal by hitting a pair of stepback shots, including one from 17 feet with a Ducks defender in his face, while also driving down the lane before arcing backwards and hitting a nifty hook shot in the second half. He contributed to USC’s plethora of late-game misses before fouling out with 1:25 to go, but in what’s becoming a less surprising occurrence, he was the best player on the court for the Trojans in Eugene.
While Boatwright had a banner game, the Trojans’ other freshman was more down than up on Thursday night. Ducks forward Elgin Cook’s brute strength had the advantage over the lanky freshman, while a goaltend on a Dillon Brooks jumper that would have missed dealt a major blow to the Trojans’ comeback bid in the final five minutes. Earlier in the game, Metu had a push-off foul called before notching another goaltend after running back on defense.
When USC plays zone, Metu often gets a little too excited when coming over to challenge shots at the rim. While that can result in a block, on Thursday night it more often meant a foul, goaltend or mis-timed jump resulting in an open look at the rim for the Ducks. The 6-foot-11 forward can jump out of the gym with his athleticism, but the human pogo stick still hasn’t mastered the art of control.
Edged Out On The Interior
Oregon’s frontline took the Trojan big men to task all night. Cook dominated Metu and Jovanovic all night to the tune of 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Cook also provided an early dagger, dragging the Trojans outside the key before hitting his first three of the night with 12 minutes left. It put the Ducks up 69-56 for their largest lead of the night, and looked to take the wind out of the Trojans’ sails. Chris Boucher also bullied the Trojan big men down low, notching 16 points and nine rebounds, with many of his buckets coming on putbacks and high-percentage layups.
Live By The Three, Die By The Three
USC entered Thursday night leading the Pac-12 at a 41.1 percent clip from beyond the arc. However, the deep ball didn’t fall in the second half for USC, hampering the Trojans’ ability to take any bites into an expanding Ducks lead as the Trojans went 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc. Most of the Trojans’ 20 misses were open looks as well, so a cold shooting night is more to blame than poor shot selection. Meanwhile, the Ducks were 11th in the conference on threes going in but shot 8-of-18 on the night (44.4 percent), helping the Ducks’ keep pace with USC early and aiding their second-half push.
Earlier this season, Julian Jacobs said the decision of who takes the ball up between him and fellow point guard Jordan McLaughlin is as simple as a “who wants it?” conversation. Cue one of the more unselfish passes you’ll see this year, as McLaughlin passed up an open layup by dishing it behind himself in transition to Jacobs for an open slam in the later minutes of the first half. It was a play fitting of USC Basketball this season: a transition bucket created by hustle and teamwork. Watch it below:
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