USC rolls past Oregon 74-54 into Pac-12 title game
LAS VEGAS (AP) Jonah Mathews stood in the corner of the court, joking with a teammate as point guard Jordan McLaughlin dribbled near the top of the key. The game was live, the ball in play, but Mathews had nothing to worry about.
The Trojans were well on their way to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game for a showdown with No. 15 Arizona.
”Our defense right now is the best it’s been. And we have to rely on that as we go forward here,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
Second-seeded USC (23-10) took advantage of the tired Ducks at both ends. The Trojans shot 50 percent and made 10 of 23 from 3-point range, while harassing Oregon into turnovers and missed shots.
Next up is a shot at top-seeded Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game Saturday night, the fifth straight year the tournament’s top two teams will face off in the title game.
”Our goal was to compete for a Pac-12 Championship, and here we are,” Enfield said.
Oregon (22-12) labored in its third game in three days, unable to get shots to fall or keep up with the fresh-legged Trojans. The Ducks had two long scoreless stretches, shot 33 percent from the field and 8 of 30 from the 3-point arc.
MiKyle McIntosh led Oregon with 21 points.
”I’m really disappointed,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. ”Obviously, early turnovers led to some easy baskets for them. Our ball movement was not good. We took a number of bad shots. Bad shots and bad turnovers are not a good combination against a good team.”
Oregon and USC entered the Pac-12 tournament on the NCAA bubble.
The Trojans have the better resume with four Quadrant 1 wins and kept their hopes alive with a quarterfinal win over Oregon State. The Ducks are more of a longshot, taking the first step to a needed deep run in the Pac-12 tournament by beating Utah in the quarterfinals.
USC and Oregon met twice during the regular season, twice tight games, both won by the Trojans.
Playing the day before seemed to take something out of the Ducks. They had some careless turnovers early and struggled offensively, going scoreless for nearly 6 1/2 minutes before another drought over the final 4:47 of the first half. Oregon shot 9 of 31 from the field, 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc, before the break.
USC led 37-23 at halftime behind Mathews’ 16 points.
It didn’t get any better for the Ducks in the second half. Oregon missed its first seven shots and USC kept stretching the lead, to 53-25 in the opening six minutes.
The Ducks caused USC some problems with their full-court press, cutting the lead to 14 with 6 1/2 minutes left, but got no closer.
”We just didn’t play very well,” Altman said. ”We didn’t really play well this tournament, but we were able to find ways to win, and tonight against a good team that was fresh and ready to play, we just couldn’t get it done.”
Oregon’s longshot NCAA Tournament bid took a big hit with a loss to another bubble team.
USC may have secured its NCAA Tournament spot with a dominating performance at both ends.
Oregon leading scorer Payton Pritchard had a rough tournament finale.
The sophomore guard, who averages 14.1 points per game, had four points on 1-of-11 shooting, including 1 for 5 from 3-point range. He did have seven assists.
Oregon is likely headed to a lower-tier postseason tournament.
USC plays No. 15 Arizona in Saturday night’s Pac-12 title game.
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