USC overcomes collapse, edges Oregon St.
LOS ANGELES -- With five seconds left to play in a seesaw contest Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center, Aaron Fuller cut to the basket and hit what proved to be a game-winning layup, giving USC a 69-68 win over Oregon State.
The game came down to an exciting final minute, with four shots being traded by the two teams and the USC defense making a big, final stop to come away with the victory, the first for interim head coach Bob Cantu. USC (8-11, 3-3) watched a 15-point lead disappear in the second half after a long scoring drought. The Beavers (10-8, 0-5) went on an 18-2 run, setting up a back-and-forth battle in the final stretch.
"It's been a tough week for everyone with all of the adversity, it was really nice for us to go out and get a win," Cantu said. "We fought and we got stops at the end when we really needed them but at the end of the day, we found a way to get a win."
The Trojans were clearly bothered by the Beavers' 1-3-1 zone with the exception of Byron Wesley. Wesley attacked the paint, driving from all angles to finish with 19 points and three assists.
"I told Byron, I said you're game, you're a great driver," Cantu said. "You're great at getting to the basket in man or in zone and I want you to penetrate and get to the basket and get fouled all of the time."
"Oregon State is long and lanky. They have a 6-9 guy at the top of their press so we kept making some tough passes," Wesley said. "But I definitely think it was something that was good for us and we needed that."
Eric Wise scored 18 points and J.T. Terrell had 11, helping the Trojans to a 49.1 percent shooting mark from the field.
"Eric wise, he just is very poised out there," Cantu said. "He takes really good shots and doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
Oregon State's Roberto Nelson scored a game-high 26 points, including a perfect 10-for-10 mark from the free throw line. Devon Collier had 16 points with eight rebounds and Joe Burton also finished with 16. Oregon State shot 40.7 and have now lost five straight to open Pac-12 play.
The game was tied twice in the final four minutes. USC fell behind by one after Nelson hit a jumper with 45 seconds left, putting the Beavers ahead 66-65. On the other end, J.T. Terrell then tried to hit Omar Oraby under the basket for a layup, but Oraby was late on the cut and the ball was knocked out of bounds.
Fuller was then inserted into the lineup in place of Oraby.
"That was a decision we made at the last minute defensively," Cantu said. "You go back and forth because you want Omar there with his presence at the rim but Aaron is defensively solid so that's the decision that we made. I'm glad we did."
With only six seconds left and USC now down 68-67, Fuller faked the shot and fooled his defender, dropping in the winning basket.
USC then smothered Oregon State coming out of a timeout and Wise blocked a weak Collier layup to save the win.
The second-half collapse came after the Trojans shot 51.7 percent and made 7-of-8 free throws to go up 39-31 at the break.
USC then used that momentum and opened up with an eight-point run in the second half, only to then go nearly five minutes without a basket.
"That's basketball, it's a game of runs," Wesley said. "But we just had to say, it happened, keep playing, and once it happened we were able to buckle down on defense and get some stops."
It was a win that tested the new head coach in just his second game since Kevin O'Neill's dismissal Monday morning. But it was an important step for a program seeking change.
"When a 15-point lead starts evaporating by blood pressure definitely goes up," Cantu said. "I'm feeling more comfortable every day. I'm just happy for our guys, they're a great bunch of guys and they work really hard. This has been a difficult week for them."