USC hosts Oregon in matchup of teams tied atop Pac-12

NCAA Men's Basketball

A matchup with Pac-12 Conference championship implications pits No. 17 Southern California against Oregon on Monday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (18-4, 12-3 Pac-12) saw their seven-game winning streak snapped on Saturday against Arizona, 81-72. USC was outrebounded 43-36, marking just the third time it lost the rebounding battle this season.

The other two — Dec. 3 against Connecticut and Dec. 31 against Colorado — were also USC losses.

“We didn’t match their intensity to come out. They had 50-50 balls. They got too many offensive rebounds,” Tahj Eaddy said in his postgame press conference on Saturday. “That kind of gave them confidence early and allowed the momentum to carry out throughout the game.”

Arizona scored 17 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds, almost 21 percent of the total points USC gave up in allowing its highest opponent score since the season opener. Saturday’s 81-point yield was the most the Trojans have allowed in regulation in 2020-21.

USC struggled offensively against Arizona, particularly in the second half when it shot just 12-of-33 from the field.

A 13-of-22 performance at the free-throw line continued a season-long trend for the Trojans. Their 64.9 percent average ranks last in the Pac-12 and near the bottom of all Division I programs.

Despite Saturday’s loss, freshman center Evan Mobley furthered his Pac-12 Player of the Year case with 23 points and four blocked shots. Mobley ranks among the nation’s most active shot-blockers at 3.2 per game, pacing USC to blocks on 14.6 percent of defensive possessions, per KenPom.com metrics.

Oregon (14-4, 9-3) — an effective shot-blocking team in its own right at 11.8 per defensive possession — swatted five in its 67-64 win over Utah on Saturday.

The Ducks outlasted the Utes in a back-and-forth affair behind 15 points apiece from Chris Duarte and LJ Figueroa.

“Every game we play, Coach [Dana Altman] makes a real point [that] every game is for tournament seeding,” Figueroa said in his postgame press conference.

Monday’s game is for more than NCAA Tournament positioning. The win moved the Ducks into a tie with USC and UCLA atop the conference in the loss column.

While USC is pursuing at least a share of its first conference title since 1985, Oregon is looking for its fourth since 2016. Before COVID-19 shut down the season, the Ducks won an outright 2019-20 Pac-12 championship thanks to USC’s regular-season finale win over UCLA at the buzzer.

Monday is the only matchup between Oregon and USC in the regular season, and it was rescheduled from Jan. 30 due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Ducks will look to push the tempo, if Altman’s postgame comments Saturday are an indicator.

“[We] have to turn fast-break plays into points,” he said. “We’ve got nine fast-break points [against Utah], we have to push that.”

USC’s defense, which has been excellent much of the season at 64.4 points allowed per game, has thrived forcing opponents into long possessions. Average opponent possession length against the Trojans is 18.1 seconds; Oregon’s average offensive possession is more than a second lower.

–Field Level Media

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